Pain, Pain, Go Away- Choices for Pain Control During Labor

Birthing babies is a beautiful process, but it can also be a painful one. Contractions are no joke when they start to get intense, but every mom tolerates that pain differently. Some moms are really uncomfortable when they’re 2 centimeters dilated, while others are a 7 before really feeling the pain.

Thank goodness we live in an age where we have choices on how to manage that pain! It is good to know your options ahead of time so you can mentally prepare yourself for those choices when it comes time to make them.
 Non-Medicated Coping
There are so many ways that you can use non-medicated coping for pain relief. You can also choose to do some of these things even if you decide on a different method, such as an epidural or IV pain medication.
Position changes are a great way to try and get some relief. You can try walking around, sitting on a birthing ball, or even sitting on the toilet. Getting into all fours on hands and knees is also a great position to help relieve pressure and discomfort. As long as you have a low risk pregnancy, your provider should be okay with you being up and active during labor.
Water therapy also does wonders with pain relief during labor. If your hospital offers the use of a tub, give it a go. The jets can help sooth contraction pain, especially if you’re feeling a lot of back labor. Showers are also wonderful. Run the water over where it’s hurting the most, like your tummy or back.
Aromatherapy can also help reduce discomfort. The theory behind it, is that using your other senses during labor will help take away from the pain you’re feeling. Pick out a smell you really enjoy, grab a diffuser, and you’re good to go!
Massage can be effective and get your support person involved in the labor process. Some moms dislike being touched during labor, but others benefit greatly from massage. Whether it be a foot rub, back rub, or even applying pressure to the lower back.
There are so many other non medicated ways to reduce pain, but those are just a few to get you started.
  • PROS: Movement helps progress labor and different positions can help lessen the pain.
  • CONS: If you’re high risk, movement may be limited. Otherwise there really aren’t any!
Laughing Gas (Nitrous Oxide)
Nitrous oxide has been used for years to help alleviate pain during labor and it’s starting to make a comeback. Not all hospitals have this option, but it’s worth a try if the hospital you choose has it and you’re trying to avoid the epidural.
The nitrous won’t take away your pain completely and you will still feel the contractions. It will hopefully help you relax through the contractions and take the edge off. Some moms are disappointed after they try it because they have the misconception that they will be pain free while using the laughing gas.
To use the laughing gas, you have to hold a mask on to your face throughout the contraction. The key is to put the mask on your face right before the contraction hits, take big deep breaths with the mask on throughout the contraction, then take the mask off when it’s over. It takes a few tries to get the hang of it. The moms I’ve taken care that have gotten the hang of it were happy with the outcome.
  • PROS: Nitrous takes the edge off without limiting movement. It stays in your system for a short time and does not affect baby.
  • CONS: It can cause a dizzy or lightheaded feeling. Difficult to hold mask in place while in pain. May cause claustrophobic feeling.
IV Pain Medication
IV pain medicine is a great option if you’re not sure if you want the epidural or if you just need a little something to get you through. The most common medicine that I’ve given is called Fentanyl. It won’t take away the contraction pain, but it should hopefully take some of the edge off.
Fentanyl usually works really well the first couple doses, but then as your pain increases and your body gets used to the medicine, it’s not usually as effective for most women. The medicine also crosses the placenta, so you can’t have any if it’s close to delivery because it’ll make your baby a little sleepy when he or she comes out.
  • PROS: IV pain medicine doesn’t limit your movement during labor and helps take the edge off.
  • CONS: Usually only a few doses are effective. You can’t take it too close to delivery. It may give you that woozy feeling and makes some moms nauseous.
Epidurals work by placing a little plastic tube in a specific spot in your back. The medicine that is put through the tube numbs the nerves that cause contraction pain. Some risks associated with epidurals are a drop in blood pressure, infection, or a bad headache that is worse while sitting or standing, and better while laying down. There are precautions taken to reduce those risks.
Epidurals are the last ditch effort for pain control. Epidurals will usually take away the contraction pain, but not necessarily the pressure when it comes time to push. Epidurals affect everyone differently. Some moms have great experiences with them, while others still feel a lot of discomfort even after they get an epidural. There is so much more to say about epidurals that they will get their own post soon.
  • PROS: Most moms are essentially pain free during labor. Moms report being able to enjoy their labor and get some rest.
  • CONS: Unable to get out of bed. Increased risk of blood pressure drop. May make it more difficult to push if unable to tell when having contractions or not being able to feel pressure.
No matter what you choose to use for pain control during labor, know that your nurses will support you! There is no right or wrong way to labor and to have a baby. Whether you just use non medicated coping or end up trying all three, as long as you are laboring how you want to that is all that matters!
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