Need a Healthy Dose of Labor Pain Relief?

Need a Healthy Dose of Labor Pain Relief? - large

It's easy to get the care you need.

See a Premier Physician Network provider near you.

Aside from setting up the nursery, packing your hospital bag and buying your infant-ready car seat, you also might want to spend some of your pregnancy detailing your birth plan. As you outline how you’d prefer to labor, one big question to think about is how you want to manage labor pain. Choices abound! All the way from meditative deep breathing to drugs.

Know you have three options and each has a different role.

If you’re thinking medication, know you have three options and each has a different role.

Need a Healthy Dose of Labor Pain - small1. Epidural

What is it?
An epidural is a regional anesthetic, meaning it blocks pain in a particular area of your body. The drug is given through a tiny tube inserted in your lower back. Once it is in place, you’ll start to feel pain relief in 10 to 20 minutes, and your body will be numbed from the waist down. Your doctor can adjust the dosage through the tube as your labor progresses to provide the desired level of pain relief.

What are the advantages?
Juan Reina, MD, Hilltop Obstetrics & Gynecology tells his patients the epidural promotes a comfortable laboring process. “You can be playing cards with your husband, talking to your family that came to visit from out of town, watch movies and have a relaxed atmosphere while you wait for your baby to come to the world. That helps not only the father of the baby, but the whole family to feel that they’re in a home environment while they are waiting for the baby to be born. It creates less anxiety, and less stress. For patients who have a lower pain threshold, it enables an emotionally positive experience.”

Dr. Reina talks about how quickly the epidural can be reversed after the birth of your baby. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

What are the benefits of an epidural after the birth?

The added benefit for having this control on the epidural is that once the delivery process is done we can turn off the epidural and the patient regains the function of her legs within an hour or two so by the time she goes from labor and delivery to the post partum unit . . . we have separate delivery rooms and postpartum rooms here at Atrium. They have regained almost all their mobility and can go about their business with their new baby and celebrating.

 

What are the disadvantages?
Some women may not be able to feel the urge to push when it is time to deliver your baby. An epidural might cause a drop in blood pressure, or it may prolong labor.

Dr. Reina talks about how the birthing team addresses those disadvantages and shares the advantages he has seen with his patients who have an epidural. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of an epidural?

The disadvantages of the epidural are that the patient has no control over the actions she will have during the birthing process because she’s going to be numb. Some patients don’t like that. They want to have full control of their extremities and their legs and they want to feel the urge to push that comes along with having the baby’s head in your pelvis. But we have the nursing staff and the capability of coaching the patient with an epidural with the same gestures and efforts to deliver the baby. All these disadvantages are at a smaller scale; they don’t happen all the time, they do happen like anything you do in life, but they happen on a smaller scale and usually we have counter measures for any of these disadvantages. Sometimes epidural will slow down the laboring process, the contractions might mellow down, but we have again we counter measures for that. We use pitocin to enhance the contractions at all times if we need to whether you have the epidural or not because ultimately we want to deliver the baby. Also, by placing the epidural we basically numb from the waist down and that can cause certain dilation or expansion of the blood vessels from the waist down which causes a drop in the blood pressure that will sometimes happen after an epidural. Again, we have counter measure for that. We usually give the patients enough fluids beforehand and if the blood pressure drops abruptly or suddenly then we have some medication to counteract that. As far as the husbands or the father of the baby is concerned the epidural brings a positive edge . . . and now we’re going into the advantages of it. Once he’s in there with his wife waiting for the big moment. That could be just a few hours or many hours . . . 12, 18, 24 hours of laboring until you finally deliver your baby. During that time the epidural gives the advantage of having a comfortable laboring process in which I tell my patients you could be playing cards with your husband, talking to your family who came to visit from out of town, watch movies (there’s free pay-per-view in the hospital) and have a relaxed atmosphere and sensation while you wait for your baby to come to the world. That also helps the family and father of the baby to feel comfortable. They are in a home environment while they wait for the baby to be born. It creates less anxiety and less stress. In some patients who have lower pain threshold it enables an emotionally positive experience. The other advantages of the epidural are that it also helps relax the muscles in the pelvis which when you’re in pain you try to contract everything in your body. By relaxing it creates that additional space so to speak for the baby to come down. Also while you are in the delivery process if there is a complication, the heart rate goes down in the middle of delivering the baby, we can act quickly to get the baby out.

 

2. Spinal Block

What is it?
A spinal block consists of medication injected directly into the spinal fluid. Also given through the lower back, this shot is usually done only once during labor, and it lasts one to two hours.

What are the advantages?
Once administered, the spinal block will give you nearly instant pain relief. This differs from the epidural, which can take 10-20 minutes to start working.

What are the disadvantages?
Side effects of the spinal block are similar to those for an epidural. The countermeasures to address them are also much the same.

3. Local Anesthesia

What is it?
Local anesthetics are injected into nerves that carry sensations to the vagina, vulva and perineum. This type of drug is administered just before you deliver your baby.

What are the advantages?
It allows you to feel relief from pain in the sensitive areas you might need it most during delivery.

What are the disadvantages?
The baby is not affected by this medicine, and it has very few known disadvantages.

When you talk through your birth plan with your health care provider, be sure to learn all you can about the pain relief options available to you. Knowing how you’ll cope is a great way to ensure you’ll be able to make the best decisions for yourself as you enter the amazing process of childbirth.

It's easy to get the care you need.

See a Premier Physician Network provider near you.

Juan Reina, MD

Juan Reina, MD

View Profile View Articles
Small Steps: Lose Just Five Pounds!
You’ll notice the difference — and you’ll make your pregnancy safer.