Birthing Options - Pain Relief Options for Childbirth
childbirth, and inevitably the subject of “pain” or
rather what the best ways to avoid it, comes up.
are VERY few women who will experience childbirth with
relatively little to moderate pain as opposed to the
rest of us who've been through it without the drugs
that can only describe it as “a kinda pain that would
kill a grown man”
naturally we'll leave-no-stone-unturned in the search
for safe pain relief!
it must be said that labour and childbirth cannot and
should not be compared to any other sort of pain like
breaking your leg or passing kidney stones!! This is
something so completely different because it is a “pain
with a special purpose” Contractions have a start and
an ending, labour does eventually come to an end and
those women who've gone through natural birth, will
testify to how “quickly” you forget “how intense &
challenging” it was. Instead it can leave you with a
sense of immense satisfaction and victory by what you've
been able to do. So please, don't wish this special
“life-changing” event away. The birth is a part
of your pregnancy – Embrace it, - welcome it,
- it's what you were meant to do!
by no means should you feel less of a woman for wanting
and using some sort of pain relief, as long as you're
well informed of the benefits and consequences of each
women can attest to feeling more focused by merely being
submerged in water along with the ability of being able
to move around more agilely and having water poured
over a contracting belly can be a huge relief to a lot
you're birthing at hospital, find out if they have a
bath available if you think that using water would be
beneficial for you. For homebirths, the bath in your
home would be adequate for labouring purposes but if
you're wanting more space and are perhaps attempting
a water birth, it would be a good idea to hire a birth
pool, which is specifically designed to hold more water,
be accessible from all sides for the midwife and offer
more space to move around in – your partner could even
join you in the bath if you wish!! Using the shower
could be another good method of relief – Seat yourself
on a plastic chair or stool inside the shower for your
comfort and direct the cascading waters over your belly
or your lower back. Partners can also join you, if your
shower is big enough!!
some baths come equipped with a hand held shower device
that could be cascaded over your belly.
birth pool hire, ask your independent midwife or contact:
Karen Clark 082 776 3622 or checkout the birth works
website for birthing equipment hire at http://www.birthworks.co.za/
benefit of touch, especially during labour, is infinitely
underestimated. Massage connects the giver & receiver
in a mutually beneficial way, and especially in labour,
it offers the mother, the feeling of being supported
& “companioned” which has a phenomenal impact on
her sense of security and ultimately her perception
of pain. It leaves the giver with a sense of purpose,
and a feeling of empathy and can leave them feeling
better about themselves at being able to provide the
aforementioned benefits to the mother. The giver need
not be skilled in how to massage but with the mothers
direction and perhaps a little help from a midwife or
doula, the birthing partner will realize that you don't
need to be a professional masseuse to offer touch that
gives the labouring woman something truly special –
tender, loving care.
to touch/massage, the benefits of certain essential
oils have proven highly effective as pain relief as
well. Lavender massage oil has a wonderful fragrance
that's pleasant to a labouring woman and helps relax
her. Certain oils aid the uterine muscles to work more
effectively and others, offer properties that assist
with fear & anxiety. Consult a qualified aromatherapist
to prepare a mixture of essential oils that is safe
for pregnant women to use during labour if this is something
you'd like to try.
“blissful birth” labour oils, contact Suzanne Leighton
at 021 794 2738.
teaches mothers and their partners, techniques for a
safe and satisfying birth through guided imagery, visualization
and special breathing. The technique of learning deep
relaxation, helps women to eliminate the FEAR-TENSION-PAIN
cycle, unnecessarily associated with childbirth.
supported a couple using this method for the birth of
their second child, I was amazed at how “in control”
of this birth she was. No-one needed to coach her breathing
and more importantly no shouting at her to PUSH-PUSH-PUSH.
She managed to birth her 4kg baby without any tearing,
despite shoulder dystocia!!!!!
is definitely not about getting mothers' to be in a
trance or sleep state but instead she'll be aware and
fully in control, but profoundly relaxed.
more info on the Hypnobirthing technique or classes
contact Robyn Sheldon 021-6742932.
stands for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation.
This is a non-invasive form of pain relief that is completely
controlled by the labouring mother. It's applied to
the lower back area on the mother and when turned on,
gives a tingly, buzzing sensation to the skin covered
by the electrodes. Essentially this action causes your
body to release it's own endorphins (natural pain killers)
and acts as a gateway blocking deeper pain messages
travelling to your brain. So the advantages of TENS
is that it's controlled by the mother, assists with
the release of the body's own painkillers is non-invasive
and drug-free. It doesn't cause any drowsiness to the
user, allows freedom of movement to any position and
does not alter the course of labour. Lastly, it can
also be used in conjunction with many other form of
pain relief .
does NOT completely eradicate labour pain and some women
have a slight allergic reaction to the material of the
electrode pads or the conductive gel or plaster used
to hold the device in place.
word of caution – DO NOT USE THE DEVICE IN WATER – Or
you may be in for a shocking experience!
can hire TENS machines from most independent midwives
or call Karen Clark 082 776 3622 or visit http://www.birthworks.co.za/
is an injection of anaesthetic given into the epidural
space around the spinal cord, numbing the area below
the injection site. Once administered by a skilled anaesthetist
it takes effect within 10-15minutes. The advantages
are that in some instances it can completely eradicate
the sensation of pain, allowing the mother to relax
more easily and possibly facilitate quicker cervical
dilation. It can reduce high blood pressure in women
with this condition and it allows the mother to be fully
conscious during the birth. The disadvantages are possible
partial numbness ie. The anaesthetic only takes effect
in “patches” on the abdomen leaving areas exposed to
the sensation of pain. It does confine the mother to
the bed, therefore a urinary catheter will be necessary.
In most instances, food intake will be discouraged so
therefore an iv drip will be inserted for this purpose
and as a counter measure to a rapid decline in blood
the epidural can “slow-down” the process of labour so
therefore labour-accelerant drugs may be needed to “move
things along”. Most women do not experience the urge
to push and may require an instrumental delivery with
forceps or vacuum extraction, which would mean needing
effects of the epidural last between 3-4 hours. There
is much debate about when the best time is to have the
epidural administered : in early or active labour.
should be the mothers' decision after being thoroughly
counselled on the advantages and disadvantages of this
method. TIP . You will NOT wish to be counselled when
you are in the “throws of labour”!! Discuss this option
of pain relief with your medical caregiver BEFORE your
(Gas & Air)
combination of nitrous oxide & oxygen, is inhaled
through a facemask or mouthpiece and deep breathing
is required to activate the dispensing machine. It starts
to take effect within 20 seconds and the maximum effect
is felt after about 45-60 seconds. Inhalation must be
started at the very beginning of each contraction and
be continued until the peak of the contraction has passed.
The effect wears off quickly and does not affect the
baby. The mother controls the administration. This is
a mild form of pain relief and can be used in conjunction
with other methods (like being in the bath or with TENS
machine, pethidine, etc.) The action of deep in and
out breathing also helps the mom breathe more effectively
women complain of becoming nauseas and others do not
like the claustrophobic feeling of having a mask over
their face. Generally it's advised to use this method
during the late active or transition phase of labour.
is thought to help stimulate the body's natural release
of endorphins as well as interrupting the transmission
of pain-stimuli. It is also commonly used to induce
labour. Accupuncture for pregnant women must only be
done by a skilled therapist as it's effects can be quite
option may not be too readily accessible to women planning
on a hospital birth, due to limited access in the labour
wards and sometimes lack of understanding of alternative
methods of pain relief by medical personnel.
is a derivative of Morphine, which is given as a sedative
during labour. It sedates the mother and has a secondary
effect as a muscle relaxant, which lessens the pain
and reduces muscle tension, allowing faster dilation.
This method can have side effects that affect both the
mother and the baby.
women experience nausea, vomiting, light-headedness
and a feeling of being “high”. It crosses the placental
barrier and can cause respiratory depression in the
baby. It is important that this drug be administered
timeously so as to allow it's effects to wear off before
the baby's born. Should the baby be born with a high
dose of pethidine in its system and antidote can be
administered to the baby. Mum's should note that the
baby might initially be lethargic and not interested
in feeding until the drug has run its course. Pethidine
can be administered by obstetricians and independent
midwives. It can take between 10-20minutes to start
working and remains in the system for 3-4hours.
an antihistamine drug mainly used as pre-anaesthetic
medication. It can also be used in labours where the
cervix is slow in dilating, to calm an anxious mother.
It appears to have no undesirable effect on the mother
or baby and is in some cases given in combination with
pethidine so as to offer pain relief and help normalise
inco-ordinate uterine contractions.
purpose of making women aware of the pros & cons
of pain relief options is not to overwhelm them with
more information but rather to facilitate open debate
& discussion for you & your baby's well being.
may be many other methods of pain relief that women
have tried that might not have been mentioned here.
is also important to note that access to certain methods
of pain relief might be restricted to where you are
having your baby (home, state hospital, private hospital
or active birth unit) as well as what your medical caregiver
is “familiar” with.
the options of pain relief that appeal to you with your
caregiver well before the time as it could mean changing
caregivers to get what you want.
is a qualified Doula at Lalilu Doula Care. She can be
contacted on 021 703 4291 or 073 514 9754. She can be
emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.