by Melanie McLeod
I am sure you have heard the horror stories that a lot of women take delight in telling about the pain of labor. While yes it can hurt, it's for the most wondrous cause. So far I have survived 8 labors and one car delivery and honestly it gets a bit easier each time. Or in my case a little too easy. I have had two failed epidurals and 6 all natural birth experences with no medication what so ever but not all of us are able to cope. Truth be told, where it not for my speedy deliveries I would be saying, "show me the drugs." Before indulging in the drugs though, it's always best to know what if any side effects one may have on both the mother and the baby.
All pain medications used in labor are narcotics and are all closely related to morphine. Narcotics work by changing the way the brain perceives pain. This, by the way, can also be said for hypnotism during labor. With the use of narcotics during labor, you are still aware of your contractions but they are somewhat more bearable.
There are many different kinds of drugs available for use. If one bothers you, they switch to another. These include Stadol, Demeraol, Fentanyl and morphine. They are all the same but are different when it comes to potency or amount required to give the desired effect. Keep in mind that after several doses of a narcotic it will be come slightly less and less effective.
The side effects from these drugs are sedation and nausea. Keep in mind that labor can cause nausea with out being medicated. Some people will discover a not previously known allergy to the narcotics and can possibly develop a rash. The effects of these drugs on the baby are similar. They do indeed cross the placenta and they can make a baby drowsy which will lower his respiratory response. This type of sedation poses little risk and if baby is drowsy and there for not breathing well an injection of Narcan will with in seconds reverse the sedation effect.
A happy side effect of these type drugs is an increased blood flow to the uterus and bonus supply of oxygen to the baby.
The Epidural is touted the best of the best of pain relief during labor. And where as it did not work for me (and I know understand why) great advances have been made in the application of it, making it more effective for today's patients. The problems I had where improper insertion of the catheter into the epidural sac in my spine. It cause only partial freezing.
Application of the epidural is as follows. An area of your back is cleaned and local anesthetic is injected. A larger needle is inserted between the lumbar vertebrae until it reaches the epidural space (next to the dura). The dura is the sac that contains the nerves running down the backbone and spine. Once the needle is in place a catheter (small hose) is inserted and the needle then removed. The catheter remains in place until delivery. The medicine is then sent in through the catheter and with in 10 minutes your numb in the desired area and can no longer sense the contractions. Well at least not like before. The catheter tube is taped to your back to ensure it remains in place as long as needed. Either they inject you with the medication once in a while or they have it set up to automatically administer itself by machine on a continuous basis.
Jackpot. There are no known side effects from the epidural to the baby other than fetal bradycardia and this is rare, but sadly there may be some to you. The epidural may slow your contractions or even stop them, prolonging labor. You may also suffer from hypotension, urinary retention, resulting in the insertion of a catheter, anesthetic induced convulsions and anesthetic induced cardiac arrest (yhese last two are extremely rare). Later on you might have a spinal headache (caused by improper insertion of the catheter and who's only cure is to remain on your back for 4 days), backache, epidural abscess, meningitis or permanent neurological deficit (these last three are also extremely rare).
Other pain relieve methods include hypnotism, acupuncture, and Tens machine usage.
Melanie McLeod currently lives in Canada with her 8 children. She's a Pregnancy.org member.
Copyright © Melanie McLeod. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org.