Your Pregnancy Week 38

Your Pain Management Options

by: YMC
Your Pregnancy Week 38

By now the rowdy little body-hijacker is probably gaining an ounce each day. His or her intestines are also accumulating meconium (baby's first poop – it’s black and tarry and will be forever etched in your mind).

Mama-to-be, you may begin to feel electrical buzzes down your legs and inside your vagina (woot!). This is from the baby hitting nerves as they settle into your pelvis. False labour contractions are irregular and can become quite painful. They may be felt in various parts of your body such as your back, abdomen and pelvis. True labour contractions on the other hand start at the top of the uterus and spread over the entire uterus, through the lower back and into the pelvis. These will become stronger and more painful and won't be alleviated by changing position.

While we have you on the subject of truly painful labour contractions, this is as good a time as any to suggest that you have a detailed conversation with your health care provider about pain relief during labour. Nobody knows exactly how labour will feel until they are knee-deep in it. Some will find it okay with little or no pain relief, and others will want help at some point. So let’s review the options, shall we?

  Epidural - is where painkilling drugs are passed into the small of your back via a fine tube. It is called a “regional anesthetic”, meaning the drug is injected around the nerves that carry signals from the part of your body that feels the pain. The result will be that your body will be numb from around the ribcage down, giving you very effective pain relief.

  Entonox - is a colourless, odourless gas made of half oxygen and half nitrous oxide (laughing gas). It has a calming effect and takes the edge off labour pain, rather than blocking it out completely. If you're in a smaller hospital without a central supply of this gas, or if you're having a home birth, your midwife or doctor might be able to bring it to you in portable cylinders. Ask about your options if you are interested in this form of pain relief.

  A Spinal - is a single painkilling injection that works faster and is stronger than an epidural. An anesthesiologist will feel for the right location on the small of your back. Once the exact spot is found, he or she will use a local injection to freeze that area, and then give you a shot of a local anesthetic, into the fluid surrounding the spinal nerves, using a very fine needle.

  TENS - stands for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. A TENS machine consists of a small box, with a clip on the back that you can attach to your clothing. The machine gives out little pulses of electrical energy. Leading out of the box are four wires connected to sticky pads. Someone (we’re looking at you, birth partner) can place the pads on your back for you. Two are placed on either side of your spine at about bra-strap level. The other two go lower down, at about the level of the dimples in your bottom. The pads are covered in a gel to help the electrical pulses pass through your skin more easily. There are dials to adjust to control the frequency and strength of the pulses. There's also a “boost button” for you to hold in your hand and press when you want maximum output from the machine to help you with a difficult contraction.

Don't be scared of delivering your baby. It will all work out. It's the rest of your life as a parent that should terrify you.

No matter where you’re at in your pregnancy our guide will keep you up-to-date. Find out more about what’s happening to your body here.