Pain Management in Childbirth

Pain in childbirth is normal, healthy, and productive — and ends with the ecstasy of your baby’s birth. Although management of labor pain plays less important role in a mother’s satisfaction with childbirth, compared with the quality of the relationship with her labor support and her ability to take part in decision making, it is an important topic.

 Pain in labor is a nearly universal experience for childbearing women. It is, however, experienced differently by birthing mothers. The majority of women, though, need some sort of pain relief during childbirth. Methods vary from drugs to natural methods, and it is worth considering the various options available to you well in advance.

Non-pharmacologic methods of labor pain relief are becoming more common as mothers, as well as pregnancy and labor caregivers, become more aware of the effectiveness of these methods. Changing positions and movement, warm water baths, massage and acupressure are gaining more popularity, in addition to relaxation and hypnobirthing, in management of labor pain.

A vast study by Childbirth Connection in 2005 revealed that 69% of birthing mothers used at least one non-pharmacologic method to relieve pain and increase comfort during their labor. Most frequently used were breathing techniques and position changes and movement, followed by relaxation, visualization or hypnosis. As many as one in five birthing mothers used hands-on techniques such as massage and labor acupressure. These two hands-on techniques were rated very helpful by vast majority of 91% of the mothers. The popularity of these pain relieving methods is based on the simplicity and easiness to use them anywhere without any special and expensive tools. This is in addition to highly satisfactory level of relief from labor pains.

Less frequently used labor pain relieving methods include use of birthing balls, birthing tub or pool, and aromatherapy. Mothers who use these pain relieving methods, also, generally rate them helpful. Unfortunately, their use is limited by the need of special equipments or space.

By far, the most common forms of medication in both vaginal and cesarean births among the pharmacologic labor pain relieving methods are the epidural or spinal analgesia. Epidural or spinal analgesia mostly give excellent labor pain relief. However, studies revealed a scattered satisfaction with epidurals. Many interviewed mothers described their experiences of not having access to this type of pain relief when they wanted it, getting uneven pain relief on different sides, and experiencing headaches, and other adverse effects.

Labor is an exciting event and involves many new sensations, especially if you are having your first baby. These sensations are part of giving life to your baby. However, no one needs to suffer during childbirth. By understanding what you can do, and how others can help you in order to prevent and relieve labor pains, you are most likely to have a satisfying birth experience.

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