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Pregnancy can be a tough roller coaster to ride, more so as you approach your EDD. Being skeptical about labor pain is inevitable and that’s one big decision that can keep you up at night. Should you have natural childbirth or take painkillers to ease the pain?
Let us tell you that each method has advantages and disadvantages and should be discussed with your doctor. And luckily, there are a ton of ways to ease the pain during labor. The choice is ultimately yours.
Let’s go through both these options so that you can choose the best one!
Choosing to go drug-free does not mean that the birthing process has to be incredibly painful, unlike all the old wives’ tales you have heard. Birthing centers and at-home births with midwives often use complementary methods as do most hospitals.
The greatest advantage of natural childbirth is the absence of side effects from the drugs. Although many pregnant women can safely take pain relievers during labor, there is a risk of side effects for both the mother and the baby.
But the good news? The pregnant woman’s hormones help in natural childbirth with no intervention. Endorphins released during labor reduce pain after the baby is born and promote breastfeeding and bonding. Medications often block the release of this hormone.
The downside of natural childbirth is that you don’t know for sure how painful the process will be (especially for first-time mothers). In some cases, the pain may be more severe than expected. In other cases, mothers find the job much more manageable than expected.
Non-pharmacologic pain management options come in the form of physical interventions, respiratory techniques, and complementary therapies.
What are These Respiratory Techniques?
Paying attention to your breathing can help you become more aware of the sensations in your body. This allows you to be more aware of labor pains and avoid complications. Breathing is also a tool to help you relax and stay calm, especially if labor is escalating. Breathing exercises during childbirth are not as dramatic as they are often portrayed in movies and television.
The key is to take long deep breaths. Chanting light mantras and refining images with meditations while you take deep breaths can make labor more comfortable. Hypnosis is another successful option that has helped many mothers cope with the intensity of labor.
What are Physical Therapies?
Complementary therapies and breathing techniques alone may not be enough to relieve labor pain. But before considering an epidural, you should try other techniques that physically affect your body. You have the following options:
- Ask your doula, nurse, midwife, or partner to help you change your birthing positions. This helps in distracting you from labor pain.
- Sit or lay down on a labor ball
- Bath or shower
- Cooling your back or using a thermal pad
- Walk, sway, or dance
What Other Techniques Can You Use?
In addition to breathing exercises and light meditation, other therapies can help reduce pain and create a relaxing environment. Here are some of them:
- Sterile water injection to lower back
- Acupuncture or Shiatsu
Labor Medication options should be considered if you want near-perfect pain relief. We recommend that you consult your doctor or midwife about this beforehand. They can find out if a particular drug is right for you based on your medical history. Most of the process of a medicated birth is virtually painless, although you may still feel a dull sensation during contractions.
But of course, there is this obvious downside of painkillers: side effects. This can include:
- Low blood pressure
- Difficulty urinating
Here are other side effects:
- Not all painkillers work for everyone. You have to get consulted beforehand so that your doctors can find out which medication will work best for you.
- The labor could slow down as the painkillers affect the release of pregnancy hormones.
- These medicines might also be transmitted to your baby and it may lead to difficulty in breastfeeding or breathing after birth.
5 Medications Used in a Medicated Birth
The most common forms of birth pain relievers include:
The advantage of epidural anesthesia is that the dose can be increased or decreased as needed. If you think you need more pain relief from an epidural during labor, do not hesitate to speak up. Epidurals help in both cesarean and vaginal deliveries bu reducing pain below the waist.
Pain relief from spinal and epidural anesthesia does not pass across the placenta to the fetus, whereas general anesthesia and intravenous (IV) analgesics do. One of the drawbacks of epidural anesthesia is that once in place, you are tied to a hospital bed with your legs paralyzed during labor.
Spinal Block is similar to epidural anesthesia, but the medication is short-lived and lasts only an hour.
These are available in the form of IVs or injections. They affect your whole body and are more likely to affect your baby.
This is a drug that puts you to sleep completely. It is not typically used in cesarean or vaginal deliveries but only in real emergencies.
Tranquilizers are often used with analgesics, and these drugs are used to relieve extreme anxiety. Except in high-risk cases, tranquilizers are usually discouraged due to their imminent side effects.
A Final Word on Natural Birth vs Medicated Birth
It’s important to have all the facts you need to make decisions about natural birth vs medicated birth. But the call is yours to make. Only you can decide what is best for you and your baby during labor.
Do not get discouraged by horror stories of childbirth. Do your best to stick to the facts about all your options so you can make the best possible decisions. It is also important to discuss this with your doctor or midwife before making a decision. If you’re planning a natural childbirth, it’s important to choose a facility that truly supports your choices.
Here’s a tip to ease labor pain: exercise during pregnancy can strengthen the body and increase pain tolerance. To get more ideas on pain control and labor and delivery, you could enroll in a childbirth class. This will help you prepare better for your due date.
Also, make sure everyone involved in the birthing process knows your birth plan. Be sure to write down your birth wishes to avoid confusion.