Labour as the name implies is a painful process. Most pregnant women are concerned about how they would cope with labour pains. There are various methods available to women and a few of them are discussed below.
TENS stands for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation.
TENS is a gentle electrical current passed through four flat pads on your back. The TENS works by stimulating the body to increase production of its own natural painkillers called endorphins. They also interrupt the pain signal pathway sent through your spinal cord to your brain reducing the pain sensation. The TENS is most effective if used from early labour as it takes 30-40 mins to build up the endorphin levels and the electrical stimulation can be increased as the contractions become stronger. It is not very effective during the active phase of labour, when contractions get longer, stronger and more frequent. It’s probably most effective during the early stages, when many women experience lower back pain.
Electrodes are taped on to your back and connected by wires to a small battery-powered stimulator. Holding this, you give yourself small, safe amounts of current through the electrodes. You can move around while you use TENS.
- You can keep moving and it won’t directly interfere with your labour.
- You can use it for as long as you want.
- There are no lasting side-effects for you or your baby.
- It doesn’t need an anaesthetist, doctor or midwife.
- It can be used at a home birth and in hospital.
- You’ll probably need someone to help you to position the pads.
- It may only help in the early stages of labour.
- It may have to be removed if your baby’s heart has to be monitored electronically.
- It might make it more difficult for your birth partner to massage your back.
- The clinical evidence in support of TENS is lacking though many women say that it helped them.
Nitrous oxide (often called “laughing gas”), in combination with oxygen (50% of each gas), has been in use for two centuries as a simple anaesthetic agent. It has been used by women in labour since the 1930s. It is also called “gas and air”.
It is used by labouring women to help cope with labour pains. Itwon’t remove all the pain, but it can help reduce it and make it more bearable. Many women like it because it’s easy to use and they control it themselves.
You breathe in the gas and air through a mask or mouthpiece, which you hold yourself. The gas takes about 15-20 seconds to work, so you breathe it in just as a contraction begins. It works best if you take slow, deep breaths.
- You can control it and the effects wear off very quickly once you stop inhaling.
- It’s fast-acting (taking effect after 20 to 30 seconds).
- Your baby doesn’t require extra monitoring while you’re using it.
- You can use it in a birthing pool.
- It may make you feel sick and light-headed initially but the nausea usually passes.
- It can dry your mouth out if you use it for long periods.
- Keeping hold of the mask or mouthpiece may stop you from moving around and getting into a comfortable position.
- It can take a few contractions to get the hang of it so that it’s effective at the peak of contractions.
- If used with pethidine or diamorphine, it may make you feel even drowsier.
There are no harmful side effects for you or the baby
Acupuncture and Hypnotherapy
Acupuncture, an important and ancient component of traditional Chinese medicine, is gradually being integrated with conventional medicine in the West.Acupuncture involves putting needles into points on your body to help reduce the pain. The therapist would need to be with you during your labour. Some studies suggest that women who used these therapies feel in control of their labour and use less medication to reduce pain.
Hypnosis has been used to reduce childbirth pain since the early 19th century. With the improvement in obstetric analgesia in the 1960s and later, the popularity of hypnosis declined. Today, the interest in hypnosis training to shorten labor and decrease childbirth pain is increasing among holistic practitioners and expectant parents.
Hypnosis can distract you from the pain. You can be trained to do the hypnosis yourself (self-hypnosis), which you will need to practise while you are pregnant. Otherwise, a hypnotherapist will have to be with you while you are in labour.
Things that reassure pregnant women & things that worry them
Pregnancy and Labour and Post Delivery are some of most memorable months that a woman can go through. During the same time women also experience anxiety about the pregnancy, labour pains, coping with the new born and breast feeding among other concerns.
Common things that cause worry during a pregnancy
- Normal symptoms of pregnancy eg vomiting, nausea, heartburn
- Being more vulnerable and emotional
- Generalised aches and pains
- Swelling of the feet and hands
- Baby not moving as often as before
- Pain during labour
- Coping with breast feeding and the baby after the delivery
Common things that reassure pregnant women
- Supportive partner, family and friends
- Adequate knowledge about the pregnancy and its course
- Being seen by the same team of doctors through the pregnancy
- Knowing that adequate pain relief is available during labour
- Having a family member with them during labour
How involved is the doctor in actual childbirth?
One of the common questions that women ask is “Doctor, will you be there during my labour and delivery?”No doubt the presence of their doctor is very reassuring but it is impossible for the senior obstetrician to be present throughout during each labour as this can extend for 12 hours or more.
So a team of qualified obstetricians will look after a pregnant woman when she comes to hospital in labour. The senior doctor is kept informed at all times of her progress and the doctor makes all the decisions though she/he may not be present physically in the hospital. So remember although you do not see your doctor all the time she/he is aware of everything that is happening to you and is completely involved in all the decision making.