Pain Relief During Labour: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

You can choose from a few types of pain relief for childbirth. These include:

  • Medicine. Your doctor may offer different types of pain medicine while you are in labour.
  • Breathing techniques.
  • Comfort measures. This is often called natural childbirth.

You also can use a combination of these choices.

You can write down your choices for pain relief in a birth plan. A birth plan is a list of what you want during labour. Your personal needs are important when you make this choice. The right choice is the one that feels right to you. Every labour is different. Some women go into labour planning to have natural childbirth and later find that they need pain relief. Plan for what you want. But be aware that you may change your mind during labour.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

What medicines can you use for pain relief?

  • Local anesthesia: You get a shot of medicine to numb the area if your doctor needs to make a cut to widen the vaginal opening.
  • Regional anesthesia: A doctor can inject medicine into a space around the spinal cord. This is called an epidural. It can be used during labour to numb your lower body. But lack of feeling sometimes makes it harder to push. Your doctor can give other shots of pain medicine into the pelvic area to numb the area.
  • Opioids: These are pain relievers given through a vein. They include nalbuphine (Nubain), butorphanol, and fentanyl. They can ease anxiety and pain. But they don't stop pain completely. Usually they aren't used right before delivery because they can slow the baby's breathing.

What comfort measures can you use for pain relief?

  • Breathing techniques: Breathing in a rhythm can distract you from pain. Childbirth classes can teach you how to do focused breathing.
  • Distraction: You can walk, play cards, listen to music, watch TV, take a shower, or read. These can help take your mind off your contractions.
  • Massage: Your birth partner can massage your shoulders and lower back during contractions. Strong massage of the back muscles during contractions may reduce back labour pain.
  • Imagery: You can imagine a peaceful place. For instance, you can think of contractions as waves rolling over you.

When should you call for help?

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You want to learn more about pain relief.
  • You want to learn more about childbirth classes.

Where can you learn more?

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