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Would you like pain or no pain with that delivery?

Brigitte Bardot said it well when she said, "I am not finding pregnancy much of a joy.  I am afraid of childbirth, but I am afraid I can't find a way of avoiding it."  There are a lot of fears that come with childbirth.  One of the biggest fears that faces many women is the amount of pain during labor and delivery and whether or not to get pain management - either in the form of narcotics, an epidural, or simple pain coping techniques.

During one of our childbirth classes, my husband and I were asked to separately answer a simple question about our idea of how to manage pain during labor and delivery.  We were given a piece of paper which had a scale of 1 - 10: 1 being "I want no pain at all.  Give me the epidural as soon as I enter the hospital" and10 being "Under no circumstances do I want any type of pain medication."  For me, I chose # 3, "I'll go a little bit with pain, but I want an epidural!" and my husband answered # 7, "I'll consider pain medication as a last resort."  Obviously this led to some discussion about the topic - with me primarily saying that, unless he wanted to grow a uterus and deliver this baby, I was going to be the only person involved in making this decision!

After much discussion and some answers from our childbirth class instructor and my OB, I learned a lot about pain coping during labor and delivery.  I actually decided to change my answer to a 5 - "I have no feelings one way or the other.  We'll see how it goes!"  And, while I recognize that pain management is a VERY personal decision, here's what I did to manage my pain:

My water broke at home and contractions began shortly after - this is a rare situation since many women's water doesn't break until after contractions begin and sometimes not until broken by a medical professional.  By the time I arrived in labor and delivery, I was in pain.  I was having terrible back labor and, before the nurses could even take my vitals, I was requesting to get into the tub.  This was one coping technique that was highly recommended during our classes.  The tub helped a lot.  I turned the jets on so that they hit my back and remained here as long as the nurses would allow it (about 15 minutes).

After the tub, I decided to walk...A LOT.  I was told that walking would help with the pain management as well as speed up the progress of contractions.  And, while it did help with the pain, it did not speed up my labor.  If choosing to walk, I would recommend not doing it by yourself as the contractions can be quite overwhelming.  There were times I had to stop and hold onto my husband just to stay standing.

I also tried the birth ball.  This was very relaxing as I was able to lean forward and help Baby get into an anterior position (posterior is what was causing my back labor).  When I was tired of using the birth ball, I would alternate to leaning against the bed.  The hospital beds are an amazing tool.  They can be lifted high enough so that you can put your head on the bed without bending over (since I'm 6 feet tall, I found this wonderful!).

As time progressed and certain natural pain coping techniques either got boring or stopped working, I began to consider an epidural.  I knew that I did not want any narcotics - even though they can help take the edge off.  I had learned that the narcotics enter my blood stream and then, in turn, enter my Baby's blood stream.  For me, I didn't want this.

I continued to try more natural techniques: squatting, laying on my side, having my husband massage my lower back - head - shoulders, listening to music, watching TV, breathing (sounds obvious, but it's not when you're in pain), and focusing on baby names (we still hadn't chosen any).

After sixteen hours of labor and many, many more hours of no sleep, I was exhausted and Pitocin had already been started.  The Pitocin really cranked up the volume on the contractions.  I thought that I had been in pain before, but now I could hardly breathe during contractions and couldn't focus on anything except the cringing pain in my abdomen.  So, I decided it was time for the epidural.

I was very nervous about receiving an epidural.  I do not like needles to begin with, but a needle into my spine and then a catheter going into my spine?!  However, the epidural was the best thing I did for myself.  After receiving the epidural, I had about fifteen minutes before it was really kicked in.  The pain of the contractions subsided and I was able to breathe again.  I was also able to relax and attempt to get sleep - which sped up my labor.

After a couple of hours with the epidural, it began to wear off.  I was feeling the contractions with the fiercest force I've ever felt.  I called the nurse and the anesthesiologist was able to come and adjust the levels.  Fifteen more minutes and I was back to pain free.

For my next child, I might consider doing things naturally longer, but again...we'll see how it goes.

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  1. Hi! Stopping by from MBC. Great blog.
    Have a nice day!

  2. Hey Katie, I've read that Pitocin makes the pain worse and that's why an epidural becomes almost essential. What do you think about not getting Pitocin? I think hospitals have to give it to you at some point but birth centers/home births don't.

    The natural way is my plan but as with all plans...we'll see what happens!

    thanks for all the great info!

  3. Pitocin isn't required, but because I was in a hospital, it was highly recommended since I wasn't progressing. If I had to do it again, I would definitely wait longer before getting it. But, now that I know what to expect, I think my body will be able to relax much better on its own. I was so nervous that, as a first-time mom, I didn't relax until they gave me the epidural!

    Good luck with your plan, Michelle! I can't wait to hear your birth story and know it will be inspiration for me to truly go through with the natural plan next time!


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