If you’re expecting a little bundle of joy, you’ll be glad to know that Lowell General Hospital’s Labor and Delivery Unit offers a wide array of pain management methods to help you through labor and birth. Mothers-to-be can choose the approach — or combination of approaches — that suits their individual needs and preferences.
There are several ways to reduce your pain during labor and to help comfort you during the birth of your child. Pain is subjective; meaning only you can tell us if and how much pain you are having. The list below will explain to you the types of pain management we offer at Lowell General. Once you decide on a level to start with, you can move up (or down) as you move through your labor. As always, your physician or registered nurse is there to answer any questions you may have.
Level 1 - Comfort Measures
During any part of your labor, you may try warm packs, deep breathing, birthing ball, walking, using a rocking chair, massage, shower or a Jacuzzi bath to ease your labor pains and help you relax.
Nitrous oxide is a colorless gas, mixed 50/50 with oxygen, that’s inhaled through a face mask. While in labor, the patient places the mask on her face and breathes deeply before her next contraction begins. The gas not only blunts the feeling of pain but also confers a sense of well-being, even bliss. Some women use the nitrous oxide right through delivery, while others still opt for an epidural.
Level 2 - Analgesics
Analgesics are strong medicines that are injected into your muscle or your IV line to reduce pain. This provides rapid partial pain relief for a limited period of time. These medicines often make people feel "fuzzy." Some people do not like this feeling, while others find this feeling helps them to relax. This is a good medication to try if you are not sure what will work for you or what is most helpful. This medication can be given every few hours. Some patients find this medication can get them through to the delivery. Others choose a higher level of pain management.
“This has been used in England for years, and there’s a great deal of evidence-based research showing that it provides safe and effective pain relief during labor,” Donovan says.
“We’ve gotten great feedback from the women who’ve used it,” she adds. “They find they’re more in control of the laboring process, and the gas is so short-acting that it’s out of their system quickly and doesn’t affect the baby at all.”
Level 3 - Epidural Anesthesia
An anesthesiologist (a doctor who specializes in pain medicine) will put a narrow soft plastic tube through the skin into the space next to the spinal cord (the epidural space). Pain medicine passes through this catheter continuously. This will slowly reduce the pain of labor for a long time. You will be fully awake. Your legs may feel warm and tingly. You may also have difficulty lifting them. Before you can have an epidural anesthesia, you must have some lab tests done and receive IV fluid. This can take about 45 minutes.
During epidural anesthesia, you must stay in bed. You may have your blood pressure and oxygen levels watched. You may have trouble urinating and need to have your bladder catheterized (a tube put in). Sometimes, an epidural must be replaced if it has moved out of the correct space.