Labour is a unique experience for every woman, so it’s a good idea to be armed with info on all the options; especially when it comes to pain relief. Epidurals are one of the most commonly utilised forms of anaesthesia—here’s how they work.
There are a few options for pain relief and management during labour, but not all are created equal; some less invasive, others more potent. Epidurals in particular are invasive, but effective—although there is the common concern it can lengthen labour. The good news is that a new study might prove otherwise.
For anyone who’s gone into labour thinking they knew what they were in for, the general consensus is that birth has an uncanny way of reminding you that control is a very abstract concept. But there are some ways to help you get through delivery more positively—perhaps even with less pain.
We live in an age of awesome technological advancement that I have no idea how I was surprised when I read about the virtual birthing simulator that scientists at the University of East Anglia are currently developing. It really did blow my mind – possible because, as mum of two, I know how unpredictable the birth experience can be!
The tool is brilliant – basically, the simulator (the first of its kind) considers mum-to-be’s body shape and pelvis size as well as the shape and position of the baby and inserts the information into a virtual tool that creates a model of said mum’s body, enabling simulation of labour – how the birth will happen.
Birth simulation in hospitals is not new (apparently it’s being doing down since the 1800s) but models are based on known scenarios; the new model can simulate the unpredictable because it is patient specific, considering the factors unique to each labour.
What’s the point? – You may ask.
Well; the virtual birth simulator is a way that doctors and midwives can prepare or difficult or unusual births – it could help decide whether a baby should be delivered naturally or by caesarean, or at least help doctors be at the ready if there is a strong likelihood that a caesarean will be necessary.
The tool is not yet perfect; it only simulates three of the possible seven movements made by the baby and doesn’t include movements of the perineal muscles of the mother’s pelvis but undoubtedly scientists will work it all out.
If you’ve decided on a drug-free labour but still wouldn’t mind a little pain relief, a TENS Machine is a good option.
What is a TENS Machine? TENS stands for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulator (TENS machine). The device looks like a TV remote control cum cellular phone, to which (usually four) electrode pads are attached. These pads are placed on your back during labour.
TENS relieves pain by having a direct effect on the pathway the pain is taking into the central nervous system. By delivering small electrical pulses to the body via electrodes, it reduces the sensitivity of the cells which transmit the pain onwards up towards the brain.
You can manage the intensity of these electrical pulses with the TENS control.
TENS Machines are used for all kinds of pain but there are TENS devices designed specifically for women in labour – a ‘maternity TENS Machine’.