There Is Another Way

July 16, 2008

Epidurals Are Not The Only Way

The entire concept of a pain-free delivery via use of epidurals and a labor-free delivery by way of caesarean section have increased the use of epidural anesthesia to levels never seen before.  No doubt, epidurals deliver benefits for some women and are a very effective option for pain control.  However, while the numbing from the waist down, which occurs with an epidural, takes away the pain of labor and delivery, it has potential effects on both mother and baby.

Potential Effects on Labor and Baby

The potential effects on labor from use of an epidural include the slowing of labor due to decreased strength and frequency of contractions along with a dulling of the sensation to push.  These effects may necessitate the use of a drug called pitocin which is used to speed labor.  The chance of needing a forceps or vacuum extraction to deliver the baby is increased by three.  This type of delivery can bruise and create trauma for both mother and child.  The possibility of a caesarean section increases by three-fold. The tissue swelling which results from an epidural many create the necessity for an episiotomy.  There have been several studies done in the UK corroborating the fact that the drugs used in an epidural can affect the let down reflexes for milk and the mother has a problem then with breastfeeding.  If the mother develops fever, it can be passed to the baby who may then require intensive care as well as antibiotics.  Decreased blood pressure can cause fetal distress and there can be long term effects of back pain and elimination difficulties which affect the mother.  While women all differ in their ability to cope with pain, serious consideration and education about alternative methods of pain relief help a woman to make an informed decision for herself and her baby.

Alternatives to Epidurals

Pain is an interesting thing.  It can be affected not only by the physiology of what is happening, but also by stress, anxiety, tension and fear.  There are several alternative ways to deal not only with the physical pain, but also with the additional factors which enter into the equation.

Water therapy is gaining popularity as women are able to relax in a warm Jacuzzi.  This helps to ease the pain and allows the skin to stretch more and become supple, reducing the need for an episiotomy.  The Fit Ball or an equivalent exercise ball can be used during labor to help ease pain and facilitate labor contractions.  As a woman positions herself on the ball and rolls, it helps the pelvic muscles relax, easing contractions.  Today, hypnosis - either self hypnosis or a new treatment called hypno-birthing - administered by a certified therapist teaches how to attain an altered state of consciousness wherein the woman becomes very relaxed and has reduced pain.  This type of treatment needs to begin several months before the birth as it is a learned technique.  Having support people, someone to massage the lower back and visualization techniques are also helpful ways to reduce labor pains.

 

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