I'm scared about labor pain. What medication will be available to me and how do I decide what to do?
Worrying about what labor will be like is definitely a universal fear for many pregnant women. The outcome is amazing (your baby!), but the notion of dealing with the pain that accompanies this event can feel daunting. Be sure to talk about options with your doctor or midwife during your pregnancy; she will help you decide what might be the best option for you. Also, know your rights during labor and delivery (you have more control than you probably realize). And here's a bit of advice: give yourself the option to change your mind! The best-laid plans can change once labor begins (and it really is OK to change your mind!).
When you first arrive at the hospital and your nurse is interviewing you, this is when you can communicate with her what you think you might want for pain relief. If you have already decided that you want an epidural you can let her know and she will help you with the timing of it all. An epidural is a form of anesthesia where a medication is injected into the epidural space (an area in your spinal column). This type of pain control provides a numbing feeling in your belly can help relax during labor and be ready for pushing.
Your nurse will start an IV and monitor your blood pressure frequently after an anesthesiologist administers the epidural (a drop in blood pressure is a common side affect). The nurse will also check the motor function of your legs (sometimes your legs may feel warm and slightly numb.) Most doctors would like to see you making some progress before getting an epidural.
Options for coping with labor discomfort include:
- Sitting in a rocking chair
- Using a birthing ball
- Labor breathing (deep cleansing breaths with contractions)
- Labor epidural
- Pain medication that is given to you as a shot or through an IV
- Lower back massage