Your Pregnancy After 35 : Labor and Delivery (part 9) - Coping with the Pain of Labor and Childbirth, Pain Relief without Medication

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Coping with the Pain of Labor and Childbirth

Today, healthcare providers encourage frank discussions about the pain of labor and delivery. Childbirth is usually accompanied by pain, and pain varies among women, from very little to a lot. Research shows the expectation of pain can, in itself, evoke fear and anxiety. The best way to deal with pain is to become informed about it.

Many women believe they’ll feel guilty after their baby is born if they ask for pain relief during labor. Sometimes they think the baby will be harmed by any medication they take. Some women believe they’ll deprive themselves of the “complete birth experience.” Others are concerned about cost and believe they can’t afford an epidural if their insurance doesn’t cover it.

Pay attention to your breathing if you want to remain relaxed during labor.

You can learn about pain and pain relief through several channels. Childbirth-education classes are good sources of information. You can learn about pain-relief methods that don’t require medication, such as breathing methods and relaxation techniques.

Talk to your healthcare provider about pain relief. Medication for pain relief is usually a personal choice, not a medical decision. If you choose to have anesthesia, some studies show it can speed up your labor because you’re more relaxed.

Keep an open mind about ways to relieve pain during labor. You won’t have any idea what your labor is going to be like and the pain you may experience until it begins. Your labor may be harder (or easier) than you expect. Listen to your body. Don’t be a martyr; do what is necessary to get through labor and delivery. You may have a greater or lesser need for pain relief than you think. You can always change your mind if you need or want to.

Pain Relief without Medication

Some women don’t want medication during labor to relieve pain. They prefer to use various techniques to deal with their pain. Breathing patterns and relaxation techniques are usually taught in childbirth-education classes.

Listening to instrumental music for at least 3 hours during early active labor may help you relax. Nondrug strategies for labor pain include continuous labor support, hydrotherapy, water immersion, hypnosis, continuous labor support and acupuncture.

For some women, hydrotherapy can help reduce pain. A warm (not hot) shower can relax and massage you. Hydrotherapy during labor has been shown to reduce the amount of stress hormones released in a woman’s body. It has also been shown to decrease the frequency of contractions. Water immersion may also be suggested. It involves a warm bath during labor. It is most often used in early labor.

Hypnosis is sometimes called hypnobirthing; it may not be available everywhere. It can be effective for some women but may not be right for everyone. Visualization, relaxation and deep-breathing all work together in hypnotherapy to help you drop into a very deep state of relaxation so you may deal with your fear of pain. If you choose hypnotherapy to deal with pain, you’ll have to prepare and practice for months before baby’s birth.

Continuous labor support is often used by a nurse, midwife or doula, and includes touch, massage, application of cold or heat, and other ways to provide physical comfort. It also includes emotional support, which provides information to the mother and help with communication between the woman and those caring for her.

If you choose acupuncture for labor-pain relief, it may take some careful planning and the support of your acupuncturist. Its use requires an acupuncturist willing to be on call to come to the labor and delivery room.

Shelley was upset at her 32-week visit. Her husband’s reserve unit had been activated, and he would be gone for at least 6 months. She was sure she would not be able to deliver without her husband as her labor coach. We talked about other possible coaches. Shelley didn’t know that someone else could act as her coach. When she came in 2 weeks later, Shelley was happy to report her sister (who had delivered a year earlier) was thrilled and honored to help. They had even been to a prenatal class together to get ready.

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