Pregnancy - Pain Control Options

Mothers report that few things are as painful, or as rewarding, as giving birth. How much pain, for how long and when varies enormously among individual women. But expectant women, especially when giving birth the first time, may want less pain in order to better enjoy the reward. For them, there are many choices.

Most experts and women agree that the less medication taken or anesthesia given the better, both for mother and child. When used the amounts are so low that problems are very rare, but anything that enters a woman's bloodstream will affect the child during delivery. Training can help minimize the need.

Preparation well before the onset of labor is the first step. Lamaze or Bradley training is helpful, in order to learn good breathing and relaxation techniques. It's difficult to focus on the process rather than the pain when you're in the moment, but training can get her part way there. Attending with a partner is particularly helpful.



Some training involves learning focusing techniques - zeroing in on the need to push or the progress, rather than the discomfort. Others may emphasize distraction - counting, remembering a specific event clearly and so on. Those who have practiced yoga may find many of the ideas familiar. Several weeks practice before labor begins is a minimum, but there should be no substantial gap in time. Train up to the day.

Physical comfort

Physical comfort can be enhanced by a variety of methods. Hot or cold packs can ease cramping. Sipping warm tea or ice water is sometimes helpful. That will need to be kept to a minimum, though. If general anesthesia has to be given, doctors will require minimal liquid intake beforehand. Anesthesia can produce nausea and vomiting. Disgorging under anesthetic is potentially dangerous, since it can lead to choking.

Some hospitals will use tubs of water or even showers to maximize physical and mental comfort during labor. A good soak can ease back tension and aid a sense of well being. Techniques like these don't require any training or practice, just the ability to remember to use them when needed. A partner can help here, too.

Adjusting Your Body

Adjust your body as needed during the process. Talk over with your physician in advance his or her working needs and your options. Working together during the process is less stressful if things have been talked out ahead of time.

Still, there are women who experience great pain during birth, and it can vary from one delivery to the next. For those women, a range of medical options are available.

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General Pain Medication

A general pain medication can range from over-the-counter remedies to mild narcotics. It's important to be able to focus and participate during the process, so doctors keep the dosage to a minimum whenever possible. Stronger narcotics to ease pain can be used if necessary.

Local anesthetic is no longer an automatic choice. Studies revolving around the neurological effects on the baby have made doctors and mothers very conservative. But the types and dosages used very rarely present a problem. There's no such thing as zero risk, but the odds are so low that this is a valid option.

A regional block, epidural or spinal, refers not to specific medication but simply the way it's administered. The drug is injected into a space at the base of the spinal column. The purpose is the same: to numb pain in the vaginal and back areas where the pain is most intense. Here again, doctors are cautious but the option is still used safely in thousands of cases every year.

Explore your options well in advance so that on that golden day you can put your mind where it needs to be: delivering a healthy baby.

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