It's All Your Fault, Stop the Pain! Choices for pain relief (part 2) - Being prepared Practical and mental preparation for labor

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Being prepared Practical and mental preparation for labor

Inevitably, labor will involve a degree of pain. Although this can be a frightening prospect, accepting this and thinking in advance about how you might deal with the pain may help you to cope better when the time comes.

  • Be as informed as possible about pain-relief options to help you make choices you are happy with in labor. Find out if you need to do anything in advance, such as inform staff if you want a water birth.

  • Try to think about the final outcome of labor and view the pain as part of the process that brings you closer to your baby.

Breathing techniques

Using relaxation and breathing techniques can help you to relax and cope with the contractions throughout your labor. Try practicing techniques with your partner before labor. Learning to control your breathing has many benefits, including helping you to increase your energy reserves and let go of tension and anxiety so that you can breathe with the rhythm of the contraction. In the earlier stages of labor, you may want to practice longer, deeper breaths between contractions to help keep you calm and focused. You can also try breathing in slowly at the start of a contraction and then exhaling slowly and continuing this pattern until the contraction has passed. Later in labor as contractions become stronger, you may find taking shorter, lighter breaths helps you to ride over the contraction.

Deeper breaths can help to focus your mind and bring a sense of control.

Breathing in time with contractions helps you to bear down. Exhale to release tension after each contraction.

How an epidural works

An epidural is an injection into your back that numbs your body so that you are unable to feel the contractions. For about 90 percent of women it completely blocks the pain. Epidurals work by blocking pain nerves as they enter the spinal cord. Setting up an epidural is a medical procedure that can only be done by an anesthesiologist. A local anesthetic is injected to numb the area of the lower back before the procedure is done. A special needle is then carefully inserted into the space near to where the nerves enter the spinal cord. A fine tube is pushed carefully through the needle and left in place so that drugs can be run through it. The procedure usually takes around 10–20 minutes, and it takes approximately 5–10 minutes for the epidural to start working effectively.

How the epidural is inserted:

A hollow needle is inserted into the epidural space, taking care to avoid coming into contact with either the spinal cord or its protective covering.

Labor medication Opiate drugs used for pain relief during labor

These drugs are useful in the early stages of labor, helping you to relax and deal with the pain. They can only be administered in the form of an injection by a nurse midwife or doctor usually in the hospital or birthing center. It is especially useful if you are feeling anxious or are experiencing a long labor since it can help you rest between contractions. As with much pain relief, these drugs have advantages and disadvantages.

One example of opiate pain relief is Nubain. It is widely used in labor because of its effectiveness in pain relief and its relatively short duration of action. The disadvantage is that these medications can make you feel nauseous and they can enter the baby's system. If given too close to the time of delivery, they can make the baby sleepy and can even cause problems with the baby's breathing.

Labor and water Water labor and its benefits

Effects of laboring in water:

Not everyone is a candidate for a water birth. It can be very disappointing for a couple to learn they are no longer considered to be a good candidate for water birth if a water birth is what they had hoped or planned for. However, in some cases you may be told that it is still possible for you to labor in the water even if you can't give birth in water. The advantages to laboring in water are many. Water labor facilitates mobility and positioning; women feel lighter and it may be easier to find a more comfortable position in which to spend the majority of your labor. Laboring in water also reduces your blood pressure and can possibly speed up your labor.

It can provide significant pain relief and promotes relaxation which, in many cases, can reduce the need for pain relief medication and other interventions (it is not possible to have an epidural while laboring in water). Water labor also reduces perineal trauma. Many women find that laboring in water can give them a stronger sense of control which is important especially if this is your first labor and delivery.

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