Most women worry about labour pain and how they will endure it. Those who have experienced it will tell you that labour can be painful. But those same women can also tell you how they coped with it, and in most cases, without medical interventions.
“I was scared and doubted my ability to bear the pain. But with the guidance I received through my consultations and antenatal classes, I realized that I have the strength to go through it,” shares Meena Jain, a first-time mother.
“We encourage expecting women to harness their inner strength and will power because they each have the potential to go through labour on their own with adequate support,” says Dr Anita Sabherwal Anand, Consultant Obstetrician – Gynecologist at Sitaram Bhartia Hospital in South Delhi.
Ask Meena how she dealt with labour, and she is quick to list out tips for an almost painless normal delivery.
She cautions “Don’t expect these methods to magically eliminate all pain. You should rather try them out if you believe that like our ancestors, you too have the ability to give birth with the least interventions.”
You should prepare for a normal delivery by
1. Building your stamina by taking a walk every day
“I had led a sedentary lifestyle before pregnancy so it was difficult for me to start walking every day. But once I did, there was no going back. I actually enjoyed my walks, and the fitness it helped me achieve helped me get through the pain.”
2. Practicing pregnancy exercises and breathing techniques
Exercises such as squats or bouncing on the birthing ball can help divert your attention and also help bring the baby down, so try to include these in your daily routine as well.
3.Selecting a birth partner
“My husband was by my side the whole time. His support really pulled me through. You may not realize it now but when you’re going through the pain and don’t remember all the exercises you learned, you will be thankful for the guidance that a birth partner can provide.”
4. Choosing your normal delivery team carefully
“All your preparation may fall short if you don’t pick the right team of doctors and nurses to support you. I was assisted by nurses trained in midwifery skills who guided my through each exercise, monitored my baby’s heartbeat and reassured me I could do it. “
“Just when I was giving up, my gynecologist came and hugged me, and trust me, that acted like the most powerful painkiller!”
Is normal delivery possible without pain?
“We inform women about the options for a normal delivery without pain in case the pain is too intense to tolerate, but we don’t want them to discount their own will power and resilience,” emphasised Dr Anita.
Can childbirth be painless?
Yes, the process of childbirth can be made painless by the use of epidural anaesthesia.
What is epidural anaesthesia?
An epidural refers to the use of an injection for pain relief during labor.
An anesthesiologist gives an injection in the lower back and places a plastic tube through which drugs are released around your spinal cord.
The injection is given only once you’re in active labour – that is when you’re having at least 3 contractions in 10 minutes.
Is epidural really painless?
“Epidural substantially reduces pain and sensations in the lower half of the body, but doesn’t always provide 100% pain relief,” says Dr Anita.
Is an epidural injection safe?
“Epidurals are safe for the mother and baby.”
When other forms of pain control no longer help, an epidural can have advantages such as:
- provide relief from exhaustion and irritability.
- help in relaxing
- aid in refocusing on labour
- move forward as active participants in their birth experience
“But like any medical intervention, it can also cause unwanted side effects.”
What are the side effects of painless delivery?
The side effects of epidural include:
- You may be unable to walk around and be confined to your bed because of the numbing effect.
- Your labour may be longer.
- You may experience nausea and dizziness.
- You may have difficulty urinating and need a catheter.
- You may be at higher risk for a forceps or vacuum delivery.
The complications due to an epidural injection may be higher in case of women with certain pre-existing conditions, which is why this form of pain relief may not be suitable for every pregnant woman.
Are there any other options for painless delivery?
Yes! If you are keen on a normal birth with the least medical interventions, you could explore two methods which help in achieving nearly painless labour.
Entonox: This is a combination of gases that is breathed in through a mask, and can be used by all pregnant women. It acts within seconds and can be self-administered under the supervision of a trained nurse.
Labouring in water: Some expecting women may be offered the option of labouring in a pool of warm water, which is known to have a calming effect. You will be assisted by trained nurses to position yourself in a way that is most relaxing.
See what Gunjan has to say about her experience of labouring in water:
“With the right support, most women are able to cope well with labour pain without needing an epidural.”
But some women – those with long labours or those with low tolerance for pain – can benefit from taking an epidural.
“Keep an open mind about trying for painless delivery. But don’t use it as a substitute for proper antenatal preparation and select a gynecologist who can help you face labour with confidence,” concludes Dr Anita.
This blog has been written with editorial inputs from Dr. Anita Sabherwal Anand. She has an avid interest in General and High-risk Obstetrics.