Responding to Labor Pain: What Are Your Options, Part III
This is the third part to my series about responding to pain in labor. This time I will be focusing on what you can do if you are for some reason confined to the bed, but still desire to have an unmedicated labor and birth. I will also include a couple of options I left out in Part II of the series.
In some cases, for one reason or another, you might not be able to utilize comfort measures such as movement or hydrotherapy. If, for example you have been induced due to high blood pressure, your care provider will likely want you to have continuous fetal monitoring. You may also be given magnesium sulfate, which can cause dizziness and muscle weakness, which would make it unsafe for you to be up and around.
So, if this is the case for you and you would still like to avoid pharmaceutical options, what can you do? Many of the non-pharmaceutical options I wrote about in Part II can still be used. Relaxation techniques such as meditation and prayer, visualization, self-hypnosis, and patterned breathing can be done in the bed. Some rebozo techniques for relaxation can also be used. Vocalization, massage, and some counter-pressure can also be used.
Movement can be a little bit more tricky. You obviously cannot walk around or dance if you are confined to the bed. You can, however, switch which side you are lying on. You can use an inflatable peanut-shaped ball between your legs to help open your hips. You may be able to be on your hands and knees or even squat on the bed, depending on hospital policy and depending on the reason you are having to stay in the bed. There are also certain rebozo techniques that your partner and doula or nurse or other support person can do while you are in the bed that move you. One of these is called the Manteada, which is a rocking or sifting motion. A rebozo can be placed under your bottom and two people stand on either side of the bed, holding on to the ends of the rebozo and shifting your hips back and forth. This can provide relief and relaxation and the benefits of movement.
Another comfort measure that can be used it acupressure. Acupressure is applying pressure to certain points on the body to relieve tension or pain. This can be used whether you are able to leave the bed or not. It works in much the same way as acupuncture, but uses fingers instead of needles. Speaking of acupuncture, depending on hospital policy and your local resources, acupuncture could also be an option for relieving pain.
If hospital policy allows, and you have access to a chiropractor who will come to your place of birth, chiropractic adjustment during labor can be helpful for dealing with pain and also for helping baby get into an optimal position for labor to progress well.
Application of hot or cold packs can also help alleviate pain whether or not you are able to move around. Heat of cold on the lower back during a contraction can bring comfort to some mothers.
Another option that may be available in some hospitals is sterile water injections. This method is most effective for the relief of the pain associated with back labor. Sterile water can be injected under the skin into four places on the woman’s sacrum. The injection causes an intense burning sensation, lasting 30-90 seconds. This intense pain causes a confusion in the pain centers in the brain, and after the burning sensation wears off, women often feel a complete relief of back labor pain for about 3 hours. The procedure can then be repeated. Again, this method can be used whether or not you need to stay in the bed.
I hope that this series has been a helpful discussion of the different options you may have for responding to the pain of labor and birth, regardless of your birth plans or circumstances.