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Pain Management During Labor

Years ago when our mothers or grandmothers were in labor, pain relief was not an option. Every woman who delivered a baby, unless they did it by c-section, would do it “naturally” without any pain relief. Women of child-bearing age today are lucky because they do not HAVE to go through labor and delivery feeling the amount of pain that their mothers felt, or in many cases, any pain at all.

Some women still choose to opt for a natural childbirth, and refuse pain medication upon entering the hospital to deliver their baby. For those that prefer to use pain relief, there are many choices available today. Some involve medicine administered through an IV; others involve medicine that is administered through a needle in the back. Here are some of the choices.

The most popular narcotics available for labor and delivery include Demerol and Stadol. The narcotics do not take away the pain completely, but can help dull it for as long as the shot is effective. The shots go in through your IV and must be given in small doses because they can enter the blood stream, and get to your baby through the placenta. One of these shots normally provides relief for 30 minutes to 3 hours. Some women love using these narcotics, while others have complained about them making them feel loopy or sick. There is normally no way to know how narcotics will affect you until you take them. The good thing is that narcotics do not last a long time, and the effects will wear off quicklyl.

Spinal Block/Epidural
The spinal block and epidural are both administered by an anesthesiologist and enter your spinal column through a needle in your back. The pain relief from both of these is normally immediate and can last a while. However, after opting for a spinal block/epidural, most of the time, a woman can no longer move or walk around, so she is restricted to bed and given a catheter to empty her bladder.

With the epidural a woman may still be able to feel the contractions, although she should not feel any pain. In some instances, however, depending on the dose of epidural given, a woman is unable to feel the contractions at all, and may find that it is difficult to push her baby out. Often the doctor will have to reduce or end the flow of medicine being given to the woman via the epidural line when it comes time to push, in order to get the baby to move down properly. If a woman is going to have a c-section, she will be given either a spinal block or an epidural rather than a narcotic

General Anesthesia
This form of pain relief is rarely used, and only generally in case of emergency, or if the baby has to be delivered in a hurry via c-section and there is not time to put in an epidural or spinal block. When a woman is given general anesthesia, the mood is generally hurried as the doctors try to get the baby out quickly. The problem with general anesthesia, and the reason it is not used more often, is that the drug can easily get into the baby’s lungs and affect his ability to breathe, or make him too sleepy to respond properly at birth. The mother also misses witnessing the birth of her baby when she is given this type of pain relief.

There are many choices for pain relief when you go to deliver your baby. Make sure you research all ahead of time and know your options so when the big day comes you are able to make the best choice available for you and your unborn child.

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