Before I gave birth, I often wondered if it was possible to have a painless natural delivery. When I was pregnant, the biggest unspoken worry I had was that if I could handle giving birth to my baby naturally. Unspoken though, because millions of women around the world give birth every day, so there really must be nothing to worry about. It is still a worry if you’ve seen any Bollywood movie where the female actor is giving birth - grunting, screaming, sweating, pushing, occasionally passing out and giving birth really seems something to be worried about.
Since there was a high probability of the delivery being natural, it was time to explore if a painless natural delivery was actually possible.
Also read: Will Drinking Ghee Help in Normal Delivery?
Non-medical ways of having a painless natural delivery
Doctors suggest women who have a normal pregnancy to practice yoga (prenatal yoga) during the course of their pregnancy. The specific asanas (positions) practiced during prenatal yoga minimise stress on the back muscles while focusing on strengthening and stretching the pelvic muscles.
Prenatal yoga also focuses on breathing techniques a mother can follow during labour. These can calm her and make giving birth stress-free and comfortable. While yoga certainly has many health benefits, it is not a guaranteed way of painless delivery.
Prenatal yoga should only be done after consulting your doctor with the guidance of a certified yoga practitioner.
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Self-hypnosis is a technique in which pregnant women learn to hypnotise themselves using deep breathing, visualisations, and positive affirmations. The aim of self-hypnosis is to train the mind into not stressing during labour but remaining calm and delivering the baby is a safe, gentle way.
Self-hypnosis is an offbeat method of giving birth and there is no medical research verifying its effectiveness as a means of pain-free delivery.
Medical way of having painless natural delivery
An epidural is the most popular method of pain-relief during delivery. Epidurals are pain-relief medicines which are administered in the back at the bottom of the spine through a fine tube (catheter). The needle, catheter or medication is not administered in the spine or nerves, but in the space between the nerves. Epidurals do not numb the area. Rather, they block the pain signals travelling from the pelvic region to the brain, thereby blocking out the pain.
Common questions related to epidurals
Is taking an epidural painful?
Every person has a different pain threshold, but placing the epidural catheter does cause some discomfort in the spinal area it is placed in.
When is the epidural administered?
Epidurals are typically administered when the mother-to-be is in active labour and the cervix id 4-5 cms dilated.
Will the epidural affect my baby?
The baby during birth could be affected by many factors such as maternal health, multiple births, length of pregnancy, etc. There is no concrete evidence linking the dosage and combination of medicines in epidural to the baby’s health at birth. However, some research indicates that after epidural use, the baby might have trouble latching on while breastfeeding.
Also Read: 10 ways to ease labour pain during delivery
Will I be able to push?
Due to numbness in the pelvic region, after the epidural is administered, it might be difficult to feel the contractions and hence pushing might be difficult. The baby could, therefore, need more help in the form of forceps coming out of the birth canal.
When is it not safe to take an epidural?
- By anyone on blood thinners
- By anyone with problems with blood reports including low blood platelet count.
- Anyone with a history of low blood pressure
- If there is heavy bleeding
- If no anaesthetist is available since an epidural can only be administered by a qualified anaesthetist.
- If there is a back infection, then taking an epidural on the back could cause the infection to spread.
- If the labour is too fast with no time to administer an epidural.
Pros and cons of epidurals:
- The intensity of labour pain is far greater than any other pain. Epidurals do not mean 100% pain free labour, but they do make labour pains bearable and the birthing experience more positive. Mothers are more alert and able to participate in the birth experience.
- Pain during labour causes stress hormones to be released which in turn can cause distress to the baby. Taking an epidural could prevent the spike in stress hormone and keep the baby from distress.
- Epidurals help keep the heart rate, blood pressure and pulse rate of the mother in check.
- If for any unforeseen reason the doctors have to perform an emergency caesarean or forceps delivery while natural birth is in progress, epidurals make the process easier.
- Studies have shown epidurals prevent damage to the pelvic muscles which would have otherwise occurred in a normal delivery.
- In rare cases, the blood pressure of the mother might rapidly drop due to an epidural, therefore close and constant monitoring is important once the epidural is administered.
- Epidurals can sometimes cause back aches, shivering, dizziness or high fever in mothers.
- In some cases the epidural fluid might leak into the spine causing severe headaches in the mother.
- An epidural can cause numbness in the lower body of the mother, so she might need help while walking after the delivery
Most women resort to anaesthesia for a painless natural delivery. Some women are very keen on having the experience of a natural delivery and feel that taking an epidural takes that experience away. They instead choose to take a local or region-specific anaesthesia.
Regional anaesthesia is administered in the area around the vagina and makes that area numb to pain. It is also given in cases where an episiotomy (surgical cut at the opening of the vagina to widen it and prevent damage during childbirth) is carried out.
Also Read: 14 easy tips for normal delivery for all pregnant women
Tranquilizers are given to women who are overly anxious and stressed during childbirth. They do not relieve pain but make the mother calmer during childbirth.
They are injected into the muscle or can be given through an IV and start working quickly. The effects of tranquilizers vary with dosage. A small dosage might make the mother-to-be pleasantly drowsy and less anxious. Tranquilizers do not slow down labour and allow the mother to participate in childbirth.
As a mother to be, you must explore all options of childbirth and choose the one you are most comfortable with. There is a lot of information available out there, but only your consulting gynecologist who is aware of your case-history, can guide you most effectively.
As a soon to be mother, focus on your diet and exercise. Keeping yourself and your growing baby healthy is a must. It is important to plan for labour day, but do remember that sometimes no matter how much you plan babies can arrive by surprise.
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