When to make the decision.
My best advice to answer this question is basically that you need to prepare yourself prior to labor and be ready to make the decision at this point. Many women find labor less stressful and painful than they believed it was going to be and find that prior decision to accept medications never became a reality because they simply were not necessary for them. Other women find that their labor is longer or more painful than they had anticipated and other techniques are not effective enough and they choose to have medications. Until you are in labor you can't say before hand how you will experience it or how long it will last, both important factors in the medication equation.
Even when women anticipated a painful labor those who had studied and used the relaxation and breathing techniques from class found that they required fewer medications. One study also pointed out that what women expected tended to be what they had in labor. Anxiety of labor pain was related to pain experienced labor as well, including lack of satisfaction.
To prepare yourself you need to take a good childbirth class that will teach you about positioning, relaxation, comfort measures, and medications. Having knowledge of all of your options is the best way to be fully aware of which one is the right choice for you and your baby.
Some Options for Pain Relief
- Breathing Techniques
- Water (Hydrotherapy)
- Hot & Cold Packs
- Sterile Water Injections (for back pain)
- 'Gas & Air'
- General Anesthesia
When we speak of pain thresholds we often talk in terms of pain that we experience on a more regular basis or associate with negative experiences. Probably the one I hear most often is dentistry or stubbing a toe. While it's easy to point out that the human body is meant to give birth and not to have dental work, what is often left out of the equation when trying to determine if someone has a pain threshold that will be tolerant of labor is the mental and emotional aspects.
Studies have shown that labor pain is often what we expect of it, whether that be a positive pain or a negative pain. We all know that it is pain with a purpose and that of something good - the birth of a baby. What we can't necessarily process is how someone will deal with the pain when seen through the eyes of their thoughts and emotions.
While some might perceive pain to always be a negative experience, according to some studies dealing with the pain of labor could also be a very positive experience for some women. This again just proves that we are all individuals and will deal with and process labor differently than our sisters and our neighbors and friends.
It is still not possible to predict who will experience it as negative pain or positive pain, other than previous perceptions. We've tried to compare a woman's menstrual cycle with how her labor will be with varied success. We've tried to equate the labor of her mother or sister to a particular woman with little success.
The end result is that while we have many options available to us, our job is going to be to determine what methods of pain relief are available for us, how we can best use them, realizing that every technique has benefits and risks.