The vast majority of women who deliver vaginally receive epidurals during labor. Fear of the pain of labor in conjunction with medical pressure to increase pitocin during induced labor both contribute to the use of epidurals. It’s an undeniable fact that labor hurts, and no woman should have to experience pain in labor that she does not want to. However, an epidural is anesthesia and is not without risk. It also tends to increase the likelihood of c-sections and other medical interventions during labor. Many women believe that they must either have an epidural or have no pain relief during labor, but there are alternatives to epidurals.
Analgesic narcotics are fairly common alternatives to epidurals during childbirth and were frequently used before epidurals became popular. It’s important to know that these drugs do have risks, but unlike an epidural, do not limit your movement and are not injected into your spine. These drugs may make you feel stoned or sleepy but shouldn’t interfere with pushing or increase the likelihood of a c-section. Analgesic narcotics are typically administered through an IV and can include demerol, nubain, and stadol. These drugs will not competely eliminate pain, and for women who want a more natural experience without unbearable pain, may be a good option for dulling the pain.
Much of the pain of labor originates in the cervix, so numbing the cervix can help with pain during the early stages of labor. Your doctor will inject lidocaine directly into your cervix. This method will not completely eliminate pain and cannot be used during the late stages of labor, but is a good option to get some rest and pain relief before you begin pushing during childbirth.
As an alternative to an epidural, massage may seem relatively useless. However, massages have powerful effects during labor. They release endorphins that help you to cope with the pain and may help to speed up labor. Further, when massage is applied to the right areas of the body, it can help with much of the pressure many women feel during child labor. If you’re interested in trying massage as a form of pain relief during labor, look into classes that can teach you the correct methods to use.
Hypnobirthing may sound like the domain of hippies giving birth in the woods, but there’s powerful science to back up its effectiveness. The way your brain perceives pain in conjunction with fear, anxiety, and external stressors can all increase the pain of labor. Hypnobirth classes teach very specific methods that essentially trick your brain into believing you’re not feeling pain. If you’re interested in hypnobirthing, check out this site for a primer.
There’s a reason women who are giving birth at home are so frequently seen giving birth in the tub. Water helps to dull the pain of labor and also lowers the likelihood of tearing and episiotomy. Many hospitals offer water births as an option, and if you’d like to try laboring without an epidural, water birth is an excellent option.