Managing Labor Pain

The pain of labor and delivery can be one of the most intense a woman may have to endure her entire life. Although this may be cause for anxiety and fear, the body has a miraculous way of getting women through this pain naturally. However, modern medicine also provides ways for women to cope with labor pain if they'd prefer not to go completely natural.

Natural Coping Techniques

If you want to have a completely natural birth, it's best to prepare yourself physically and mentally. Exercising during pregnancy can help keep your muscles toned and strong, as well as give you the endurance you'll need to face a long and rigorous labor and delivery.

Childbirth education classes are important tools to educate you on the different stages of labor and delivery so that you can be more aware of what your body is going through and how to cope effectively. Natural methods of coping with labor pain include visualization, relaxation and hypnosis; all are methods that help distract your focus away from the pain of labor. Breathing techniques, walking, massage, counterpressure and Jacuzzi baths or showers are all other useful methods of coping with labor pain naturally.

Pain Medications

Completely natural childbirth is not always an option for some women. While many women find that using pain medications during labor and delivery had adverse effects such as nausea and drowsiness, and stalled or slowed their labor, other women extol the benefits of using pain medication.

Women can receive pain medication fairly early on in their labor, although it is an option that you and your doctor need to discuss. Sometimes, delivery is imminent and there is no time to administer a pain medication, especially if it requires an anesthesiologist who may be on call. IV medications that utilize analgesics such as Demerol are fairly uncomplicated, and can be injected through your IV. They do often make women feel drowsy, groggy and nauseous, so consider these side effects carefully. The baby is also exposed to these pain medications, which may cause complications during labor and delivery.

Epidurals are a popular way to manage labor pain. This is also known as a "nerve block," and is local anesthesia administered through a thin catheter that an anesthesiologist inserts into the lower back. It basically numbs or deadens sensation from the waist down. Women can still push, feel contractions, and even still feel some minor pain. While the baby still has exposure to the medication, they are typically less drowsy from an epidural. If you choose to have an epidural, be sure to notify your doctor as soon as possible so you don't lose your window of opportunity to have it put in.

How each woman decides to manage the pain of labor is a very personal choice. An open mind is essential, as well as education and the flexibility to change your birth plan should you find that your coping techniques aren't working as well as you'd hoped. Learning about your options ahead of time can help take the fear and stress out of coping with labor pain, as well as providing useful tools.

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