During a rather grim discussion about childbirth, Alicia asked me what my pain threshold was like. I have no idea what it might be, as I’ve never experienced real pain (I don’t think grazing my knee or paper cuts count). I’ve been so focused on (a) pregnancy and (b) the baby that the bit in between has kind of been forgotten, which is probably my brain’s way of protecting me from potentially unpleasant things.
However, continuing on from my birth plan post, I decided I needed to take the blinkers off and look into pain relief options during labour. The problem is, these days there appears to be a bewildering cocktail of both drugs and natural remedies. I don’t really have any “beliefs” on drugs or pain relief apart from a vague idea that natural is better.
The NHS birth plan template includes an array of pain relief methods. You are supposed to tick each one that you are willing to consider. The list includes:
- Breathing and relaxation
- Being in water during labour and/or birth
- TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation)
- Gas and air (entonox)
- Pain-relieving injections (e.g. pethidine or diamorphine)
- Other methods of pain relief
- No pain relief
Putting aside the fact that the first and last one appear to be the same (I’m not sure how you are supposed to give birth without breathing), there is a lot to think about.
I can immediately rule out massage (apart from that of the amateur kind) and acupuncture. I don’t have much experience of acupuncture and labour seems to be an illogical place to start!
So that leaves natural pain relief – “relaxation”, being in water or a TENS machine – or drugs. Gas and air is an in-between pain relief method: it is not technically natural, but unlike the drug injections it does not have any effect on the baby and you can still feel contractions. Administering something like pethidine needs to be carefully monitored as it can enter the baby’s bloodstream. Which sounds scary!
A TENS machine attaches to your lower back and emits electrical impulses into your body, which should help dull the pain. According to Babycentre, it is mainly for use in early labour so many women need to move onto stronger pain relief afterwards anyway. I’m not convinced about electrocuting myself but could possibly be persuaded. Helpfully, machines can be hired from places like Boots so you don’t have to commit to a purchase.
Alternative methods of pain relief not mentioned on the NHS plan include aromatherapy, reflexology and hypnotherapy; Askamum provides descriptions here. I think you’d probably already have to be into stuff like that to gain much benefit from it. Although learning hypnotherapy methods might be good for a laugh – and the more endorphins the better!
Must remember: no pain, no gain. And in this case, the gain will be beyond worth it!