Pregnancy is a joyful period for most women. Birth of a baby is one of nature’s miracles that only a woman has ever had the privilege to experience. However, as the name implies, labour at the end of nine months is a painful process. Most modern day pregnant women are concerned about how they would cope with labour pain and whether they would indeed be able to go through the long hours that labour entails.
Medicine has come a long way since Queen Victoria used chloroform for the birth of Prince Leopold. Now there are various methods available to women and a few these, such as TENS, Laughing Gas, Acupuncture, Hypnotherapy and Epidurals are discussed below.
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 labour 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 practice while you are pregnant. Otherwise, a hypnotherapist will have to be with you while you are in labour.
An epidural is an injection given in the back to stop you from feeling labour pains from your belly button downwards. It can be used during childbirth and during caesarean sections. It requires a doctor called an anaesthetist to administer it, unlike the other forms of pain relief discussed above. It also has to be monitored by the midwives and anesthetists through out the length of labour.
It can provide very good pain relief, but about one in eight women may need to use additional methods of pain relief. Some women may experience a headache after an epidural which can be treated.
Which method you opt for is a matter of personal choice. Some hospitals may not offer all forms of pain relief. So speak to your doctor about what choices you have.
Exercise through the pregnancy is an excellent way of preparing for labour. Yoga, meditation and breathing exercises have all been proven to help reduce the intensity of pain during labour.The author is a senior Obstetrician and Gynecologist at Fortis La Femme