Pregnancy is a beautiful time in a woman’s life. The anticipation and excitement of welcoming a new life occupies the mind of the would-be parents. However, pregnancy is also filled with many challenges. If there’s one thing that every expecting mother knows about, it is the painful labor she’ll have to endure during childbirth. There is no escape from this pain, and every woman who conceives is well aware of it. If you’re a soon-to-be mommy, you’ve probably asked your doctor if it’s possible to give birth without enduring so much pain. We feel you. We understand how terrifying it can be and how painful it actually is. Therefore, we are here to tell you about the possible ways to manage labor pain. So let’s dive in and have a good discussion on labor pain and ways to manage it:
Two Approaches To Labor Pain
There are two ways to look at labor pain. The first perspective is called the “pain relief” approach. Here, labor pain is looked at as something that is not necessary. It can be managed by pain-relieving medication whose benefits outweigh the risks. The pain relief approach is becoming more common these days.
The second perspective is called the “working/coping with the pain” approach. In this paradigm, labor pain is seen as not only natural but also necessary. Here, it is believed that labor pain exists for a reason and has a purpose. For example, the sensations you experience during labor could be helpful to twist, turn and shift the baby’s position, making it easier to deliver. However, there are not enough studies to prove this hypothesis. Back in the day, there were no pain medications, and hence women had no choice but to endure the pain. Women who choose the “working with the pain” approach tend to have a clear distinction between pain and suffering. They believe that pain is inevitable, but suffering can be managed.
So, to understand how you can manage the pain or prevent suffering, let’s look at the two major pain management strategies — pharmacological and non-pharmacological methods.
1. Pharmacological Methods
It’s simple. As you probably already guessed, pharmacological methods include pain management through medication or drugs prescribed by a medical professional. Here are some of them:
One of the most common and effective pain relief treatments for labor is epidural. It is injected and considered safe, but like most medical treatments, a few side effects may occur. Low blood pressure, nausea, inadequate pain relief, and drowsiness are some possible side effects of taking an epidural (1).
- Injectable Opioids
Opioids are another pain relief treatment injected into a muscle or administered through an intravenous catheter. They take effect within a few minutes after being issued and promote rest and relief from the pain. They may cause you to feel drowsy and nauseated. Injectable opioids also have a higher risk when it comes to the safety of your baby and yourself. Therefore, only consider it a pain management strategy if you cannot take an epidural for whatever reason. And a doctor’s consultation is a must in this case.
- Nitrous Oxide
Popularly known as laughing gas, nitrous oxide is a combination of nitrous oxide, N2O, and oxygen. It is commonly used in dental treatments around the world. Nitrous oxide is considered a weak anesthetic, but research suggests that it does not pose any risk for the mother or the baby. It can make you vomit, dizzy, and nauseous. Nitrous oxide is given in doses during labor, and while women are still aware of the pain, it helps them relax and decreases the perception of the pain (2).
2. Non-Pharmacological Methods
Many traditional and ancient methods recommend the natural process of childbirth without the help of pain relievers. If your views align with the traditional one, there are many natural techniques. Let’s have a look at some of them:
Aromatic oils are used not just for cosmetic purposes but for pain management during labor too. Studies show that essential oils can help reduce stress and anxiety associated with labor pain. It also helps ease symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and headaches. The common oils that are effective are lavender, chamomile, sage, ginger, and lemongrass (3). Discuss with your medical supervisors about using aromatherapy during labor in advance so that they too have an idea of what exactly is being used.
If you catch yourself saying “music is therapy” often, it might also work as a pain relief technique. Studies show that music therapy combined with adequate support during labor worked like a charm in coping with labor pain(4). Soothing music like classical music or lo-fi playlists can be great at calming your nerves. You can also consult suitable playlists from online sources or music apps or create a custom one.
- Doula Support
Doulas have become increasingly popular in the recent past. Several studies have documented women’s labor experience in the presence of a doula. It was found that the number of positive childbirth outcomes was higher. With a doula present, women were also more likely to avoid pain-relief treatments. By using the magic of touch through massage, doulas reduce stress and anxiety during labor, which also stimulates the production of oxytocin naturally. The release of oxytocin results in uterine contractions, feelings of well-being, and a higher pain threshold (5).
- Massage Therapy
Massage is commonly administered during the term of pregnancy as well as during labor. Massage has the magical effect of helping calm the nerves and thus rid the tension and fatigue from the body. Prior to labor, discuss with your doctor if they have in-house massage therapists who have expertise in administering massage during labor. Or else you can also consult from outside sources who would be present along with the medical team.
Several other methods help relieve pain during labor without medication. Therefore, if you do not wish to take any pain relief medications during delivery, you could discuss it with your doctor and let them know where you stand. Did you prefer medicated or unmedicated methods to handle labor pain? Let us know in the comments below!
- Side Effects Of Epidural
- Nitrous Oxide During Labor
- Essential oils: A pain management alternative for labor and delivery
- Using music during childbirth