Pregnancy is often a time spent dreaming about that little bundle of joy that you can’t wait to meet. You eagerly anticipate holding your new baby in your arms, counting all of his wonderful fingers and toes, and gazing at the face you’ve been trying to imagine for nine months. However, if you are like most women, the very thought of labor and delivery fills you with trepidation. “Just how bad will the pain really be?” you may be wondering. Put your mind at ease by learning about the different pain management strategies available to you. Discuss these options with your doctor to decide which one is best for you.
An epidural is a form of regional anesthesia, so called because it blocks pain in a specific region of your body. The epidural is administered through a catheter inserted into the spinal cord by an anesthesiologist. It blocks the nerve impulses from the lower spinal segments, causing the lower part of your body to feel little to no pain. There are two types of epidural.
1. The regular epidural is an epidural in which the anesthesia is continuously administered through a catheter by a pump or by manual injection.
2. A combined spinal-epidural is also sometimes called a walking epidural. With this type of epidural, you receive an initial dose of narcotic and/or anesthesia. Then the needle is withdrawn and the catheter is left in place, so more medication can be administered later. This option provides pain relief but still allows you the use of your muscles and the ability to walk around during labor. The combined spinal-epidural does not last as long as the regular epidural.
A pudendal block is a type of local anesthesia or aesthesia injected into a specific area for quick pain relief. In a pudendal block, the anesthesia is injected into your pudendal canal, which houses the pudendal nerve. This provides pain relief to the perineum, vulva, and vagina and is usually administered just before the baby is delivered.
Narcotics can be administered through a combined spinal-epidural or injected into an IV. Narcotics are analgesics given in small doses when labor begins. They do not eliminate pain but lessen it. They help you relax but still allow you to move and walk about.
Natural Pain Management
There are many philosophies and techniques for managing pain during natural childbirth. They include muscle relaxation, breathing exercises, massage therapy, hypnosis, meditation, listening to music, movement, and water birth.
During your pregnancy, you will be given a lot of advice, some solicited and some unsolicited. As you weigh the pain management options for the birth of your child, remember that it is your body and your birth experience. Only you can choose the option that is right for you.
At North Hills Hospital, our Women’s Center has everything you need when it is time to deliver your baby. We offer a quiet, comfortable environment, as well as compassionate and skilled doctors and nurses. Our labor suites are beautifully decorated, and our waiting areas offer food and other conveniences for your family and friends. Throughout the year, we provide tours of the unit, as well as classes about childbirth, breastfeeding, and baby care.
To learn more about labor and delivery, talk to your obstetrician and don’t hesitate to ask questions. And if you need a doctor referral, take advantage of our free Find a Physician service.