Whether you’re in the midst of your first pregnancy or have already gone through the birthing process with another child, you may remain preoccupied with one thought: how painful, exactly, will childbirth be? While everyone’s threshold for pain is different, even women who are committed to a drug-free birth may want to explore their pain relief options. Read on to learn more about four ways to manage your pain during childbirth.
Having an Epidural
Epidural anesthesia involves the injection of pain-relieving drugs directly into a catheter in the mother’s spine, blocking nerve impulses in the lower body. Around one in every two laboring mothers opts for an epidural as a pain relief method, making it one of the most popular and widely used options.
Using Nitrous Oxide
One middle ground between a drug-free birth and an epidural-assisted birth involves nitrous oxide, better known as “laughing gas.” Just like at the dentist, nitrous oxide can distract you from the pain you’re experiencing, even if it doesn’t do much to relieve the pain on its own. And unlike other medications that are injected directly into your spine (epidural) or through an IV, the effects of nitrous oxide can begin to wane as soon as you remove the mask.
Opting for Intravenous Pain Medication
Another pain management method involves the use of intravenous pain medication. Unlike an epidural, which is a one-time injection into the spine, this IV pain medication can be started or stopped at will; however, it can take up to a few hours for the effects of this medication to wear off once it’s been stopped.
Using a Doula
Many women have found that having a doula-assisted birth can significantly reduce or even eliminate the desire for additional pain-management methods. A birth doula is a companion who provides laboring mothers with both physical and emotional support.
During childbirth, a birth doula primarily provides physical support through soothing touch and massage. This can stimulate the release of oxytocin, helping labor progress more quickly and reducing the mother’s perception of pain. Birth doulas and nurses work together help laboring mothers find comfortable and effective birthing positions.