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Brush up on your awareness of pain relief options during labour and delivery. It can be very useful for expectant Indian moms.
By Melanie Lobo
Ask expectant Indian moms what they feel about the approaching labour, and chances are you will receive responses of, “I’m terrified. I’ve heard that labour pain is unbearable.” Many Indian women do not know that there is help at hand. Read on to find out more about some pain relief options during labour and delivery.
Dr. Manjiri Kulkarni, Consulting Gynecologist, Jehangir Hospital, Pune states that a woman can opt for an epidural if she cannot bear the pain. This form of pain relief gets its name from the epidural space, where the anaesthesia is injected. A needle which has a catheter threaded through it is inserted into this space. The needle is then removed and the medication is injected in. You do not lose consciousness with an epidural and it takes affect about 10 -20 minutes after being injected. The dosage lasts for about 1 ½ hours and more medication can be given, depending on the woman’s situation. An epidural is usually administered when the woman is in the active phase of labour.
Dr. Kulkarni feels that women who have long labour are good candidates for the epidural. She states that it is better to, “have an epidural than to opt for a caesarean, just because you do not want to suffer that pain. The epidural can be converted to anaesthesia if the woman has to suddenly have surgery.”
Mehernavaz Vakil, an Ante Natal Counsellor says that an epidural is, “safe regional anaesthesia but a woman needs to have mental preparation before she opts for it.” Mehernavaz also advocates getting an experienced anaesthetist to administer the dose. There are many myths surrounding the epidural and while there could be side effects, in most cases, these do not occur. She adds, “It is a greater risk if an untrained person administers it.”
Indian women who have had an epidural during labour share their thoughts
“Thank God for the epidural,” is what Tina Nagrani, 38 year old Pune based homemaker says when questioned about her experience during labour. Tina had to take the epidural due to complications in premature labour Tina had already decided to take the epidural and even had to take a second shot as she was in labour for a long period of time. She is now 5 months pregnant with her second baby and says, “I am definitely taking it again. Women have suffered for years during childbirth. There is no need for women to suffer today. Make use of the advancements in technology. They should be used for our benefit.”
Payal Shankar, a 31 year old homemaker also based in Pune was given information on the epidural during her ante natal classes and after doing some more research on it, decided to take it as well. She states, “I’m thankful that I had the sense to take it. It made my labour pain so much easier to deal with. Yes, I still had pain, but the intensity was less.” Today, she urges all her friends to take it. She reasons, “It is meant to be used for a reason.”
Possible epidural side effects
– Blood pressure may drop.
– Labour may slow down.
– For a while, even after the birth, the lower half of your body may still be numb.
– Severe headaches caused by a leakage of spinal fluid
– A high temperature which leads to an abnormally fast heart rate in the baby.
– Ringing in the ears, shivering, nausea, backache, difficulty in urinating and even soreness where the needle is inserted.
– In rare cases, there may be permanent nerve damage where the catheter was inserted
Dr. Kulkarni states that in her experience, most women do not experience the above side effects. The backache for example, is not a permanent one and could last for 3-4 days at the most. She urges Indian women to educate themselves about this pain relief method as it is beneficial for them. She sums it up by saying, “with any surgery there is an inherent risk, however, one still chooses to go for it. It is the same with an epidural.”
Local or regional anaesthesia: Some Indian women feel that an epidural takes away the feeling of having a normal or natural delivery. If this is the case, you can opt for local anaesthesia which is given in or around the vagina if an episiotomy is carried out.
Tranquillizers: These do not get rid of the pain but instead are used to make the patient calmer and less anxious during childbirth.
Narcotics: These drugs can be injected directly into the muscle or through an IV. These help to lessen labour pain too.
Nitrous oxide: This is anaesthetic gas that can be inhaled during labour.
Pudendal block: This method of pain relief blocks out pain between the anus and the vagina. It is an injection which is administered in the vaginal wall.
General anaesthesia: This puts you to sleep completely. It is rarely used these days and only when there is an emergency.
Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation: This method involves using a hand held device. The device transmits mild bursts of electricity into your skin which in turn helps to impede the incoming pain.
Spinal block: The lower half your body is numbed by this and it takes effect faster than an epidural does.
Do note that there are pros and cons for each of the above methods. Do check with your obstetrician /ante natal counsellor about the methods available for you and make a well informed decision, before you are actually in labour.
Remember that that every woman has a different pain threshold. Some women may not need to opt for pain relief during labour, while others need medication to get through it. Opting for pain relief during childbirth is a personal choice.
What did you do during your delivery? Did you opt for pain relief? Please do share your experiences in the comments below!
Melanie Lobo is a freelance writer. She grew up in cities across India but now
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