The horror stories abound as your due date approaches. Stories of 45 hour labors with an ineffective epidural, only to give birth to a 14 pound linebacker. To be clear–these are really few and far between. Labor hurts, yes. But for most women, there are a number of pain relief options availabe.
At the Wyoming Medical Center, laboring women have a variety of ways to manage the pain of childbirth. From an epidural to a TENS, medical advances have made it possible for labor to be relaxing and even enjoyable.
First, the pregnant woman must decide whether or not she wants medication. This is a very personal and private decision that no one has the right to make for her. Should she choose to opt out of medication, a couple of childbirth prep classes, also available at the Medical Center, are a wise investment of time. These classes teach breathing and focusing techniques to keep mom concentrating on the baby and not on the pain. Also, believe it or not, the nice hot showers available can be lifesavers for back labor. Have Dad or another family member aim the shower head at the lower back. A firm, almost too hard, massage on the lower back also helps relieve back labor.
If medication is an option, one should learn about the different options available. In Casper, The Birth Place offers three types of relief.
Epidural–this is probably the most common type of labor pain medication. A needle is inserted into the back, and the lower half of the body is essentially numbed for the duration of labor. Depending on the hospital, the epidural can be delivered in a variety of doses, from “walking” epidural to completely numb. Side effects can include low blood pressure, nausea, and dizzyness. About 1 in 10,000 women have nerve damage from the epidural, and roughly 10% of women don’t get the relief they need. However, for an exhausted mom whose labor has slowed from anxiety and sheer exhaustion, the epidural can provide much needed relief and even speed up the process.
Intrathecal-Like the epidural, this is also injected into the back. However, the intrathecal takes away the pain of contractions but leaves the pressure, so Mom can feel contractions coming on and help participate a little more in her labor. However, these only last about 2-3 hours, as opposed to the epidural, which lasts as long as labor. Side effects are similar to those of the epidural, mainly itching and nausea.
TENS, or Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation-TENS essentially scrambles the pain messages sent to the brain. TENS is a unit that sends a small electrical impulse that can negate the pain signals sent to the brain. Mom and Dad are in complete control of the level of electricity administered based on pain. Some women can get irritation from the adhesive pads used, but side effects are very minimal. Courses are required, however, to learn how to properly use the unit effectively.
No matter what happens, or how the baby arrives, medication or no, the most important thing is that your baby is healthy, hollering, and here.