Finally, a research study on not using pain medications during labor.
Seems like every day you see new articles and updates covering pregnancy and childbirth issues ranging from common to obscure. The topic of a recently published study seems a bit strange (why did this take so long), but quite interesting. Researchers looked at many of the ways of managing pain during labor including a comparison of natural and medical methods.
The researchers concluded that the natural methods are safe for the mother and baby, but they couldn’t find answers as to why they actually help control pain. The study reviewed over 300 different clinical trials involving various pain-relief options during labor and delivery. They grouped these options into three categories.
Work well for easing pain:
As you may have experienced (or figured out), this category included the epidural and inhaled medications such as nitrous oxide. These methods work great for helping with pain, but the epidural patients had more complications including low blood pressure, fever, and more C-sections. And those who used inhaled medications had more vomiting, nausea, and dizziness.
Might ease pain:
Relaxation, acupuncture, massage, and nerve blocks (certain pelvic nerves were injected with numbing medication) were part of this category. These women reported they were more satisfied with their overall birth experience.
Were inconclusive (insufficient evidence) for easing pain:
Included women who used only relaxation in the form of breathing exercises and/or yoga. These women had more spontaneous vaginal deliveries. Hypnosis, biofeedback, and aromatherapy were also included in this group.
When the data from all these studies were put together, the following points were most important:
1. Fear and anxiety about the birthing experience can cause some women to have increased muscle tension. This tension makes them perceive pain more intensely.
2. For some women, this fear and anxiety can be prevented or eased by the use of biofeedback, hypnosis, meditation, and/or yoga.
3. Pain management during labor needs to be individualized. Every woman’s wishes, needs, and circumstances, and the condition of the baby must be considered. With good communication with their providers, women should be free to choose and be flexible with whatever they feel will help them the most.
4. The person managing a woman’s labor should help their patient with the risks and benefits of the different methods of pain control.
As you approach your own labor, think about how these topics will help you have the most satisfying birth experience.
This guest post is brought to you by the author of The Pregnancy Power Workbook, Nurse Practitioner Camilla Bicknell called upon her 30-years of experience caring for women who are pregnant to co-write The Pregnancy Power Workbook. Her career is dedicated to the most underserved and she continues to provide prenatal and gynecology care at a large community health center in Colorado Springs, CO. Camilla is also the proud recipient of The Navy Nurse Corps Association’s 2012 Professional Nursing Award.