Sunday, 2 September 2007

Thoughts on Pain Relief in Labour

Hi everyone out there – midwives, women and new or about to be, mothers. Have been away on a course as well as working hard in the maternity unit where I work. I have recently been reflecting on how men and male partners with women in labour can have such a domineering, controlling and negative effect on women in labour.

For example, on numerous occasions, too many to remember, I have witnessed men demanding that their women in labour do not have pain relief of any kind because it might ‘harm the baby’ or ‘make the baby drowsy’.

I have a few questions to ask of these men.

Firstly: Would they undergo an operation, procedure or dental filling or extraction of any kind without pain relief?

Secondly: Do they seriously think that health professionals, namely midwives, would administer anything that is going to ‘harm the baby’ or ‘make the baby drowsy?’

Thirdly: and this is not a question: men take note: labour is excruciatingly painful. It is number 10 on a pain scale of 1 – 10 and is on a par with a heart attack or renal colic (when a kidney stone is stuck in one of the urethras or ureters that come from the bladder). It is relentless and can go on for many hours, sometimes in excess of 12 hours or more. Perhaps you men out there can recall how you scream for pain relief and take to your beds with a simple cold, toothache, headache etc.?

Yes, labour is a natural physiological process that women are able to withstand and endure and you know what? They usually do it a hell of a lot better without you guys dictating how, what and when they will have (or not) pain relief. If you really, truly want to be supportive to your partner, just be there. Sit down when she tells you, stand up when she tells you and most of all – shut up and let nature take its course, which it will, because, guess what – yes, you guessed it – nature is bigger and better than all of us and the miracle that occurs daily will happen without you interfering and trying to call the shots.

Most of all, please, please don’t deny your partner pain relief because of some misguided concept that you might have read or been told about by some people who have no knowledge whatsoever of the true side effects of pain relief that has been used for many, many years without any detriment whatsoever.


AtYourCervix said...

welcome back to blogging!!

Michal said...

You said that hospitals/doctors/midwives won't offer something that is harmful to the baby. I would like to disagree. The fact is that many a hospital underestimates the harmful effects that certain practices have on a fetus. I am talking about the effects of the epidural, AROM, induction/augmentation and so on.

If epidurals are so harmless, why is it then that a woman needs to be attached to an IV with fluids and to the fetal monitor continuously? If it was truly harmless, then that would surely not be necessary?

Often I've also heard hospital staff tell a woman that she needs to be induced now, 'because there is a room available', or that her waters needs to be broken 'because it will go faster', even when her labor was not stalling.
By doing this, they totally disregard the negative side effects that these practices also have. Sometimes the situation is called for, and the side effects are well worth the risk! But in most cases, women are ignorant of these risks because hospital staff doesn't inform them about it. Most woman assume, as you stated, that the staff wouldn't offer something potentially harmful for the fetus. Well, think again!

Anonymous said...

"Most of all, please, please don’t deny your partner pain relief because of some misguided concept that you might have read or been told about by some people who have no knowledge whatsoever of the true side effects of pain relief that has been used for many, many years without any detriment whatsoever."

Wow. Which pain relief is that??? Anything adminstered to the laboring woman has a side-effect. I've seen it over and over and over. So which Med are you talking about!!??

The Mommy Years said...

I had to laugh as I read your post ~ my husband would NEVER have told me not to have the pain relievers ~ he was begging for them before I was!!

I'm sorry, I did 8 hours of labor and delivery & I thank God and all the angels that the epidural worked so perfectly ~ I was able to relax and truly enjoy the entire experience (instead of the cussing, crying, exhaustion, fear and pain I had been in prior) I did have the lowered blood pressure & Noodle's heart rate dropped for a few minutes ~ but it doesn't take a genius to realize that was our reaction to no longer being in pain & being able to relax.

Anonymous said...

I must disagree when you say pain relief has been used for years without any detriment. I am a Midwife, and very aware of the research surrounding use of pain relief in labour and its detrimental efects. Pethidine for example and it's effects on breastfeeding-which has massive implications for both mother and baby. So whilst i agree with the principle that women should choose, not their partners, i feel it must be an informed choice- and thus they must be aware that there are cons as well as pros.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Talk about lack of reality. Perhaps in the UK you don't offer narcotics to laboring women? In the US, they are freely offered, and an anti-narcotic is immediately placed on the delivery cart to be administered to the baby upon birth because it is well known that the narcotics given to the mother can depress the baby's respiratory system.

Epidurals do have side effects as well, including ones that could harm the baby. I'm not going to go into listing them.

And the pain being a level 10? For HOURS? Yes, for SOME women it is. But for most women who are allowed to be up and about, it is only 10 for a very brief time, and they may choose to accept that much as an athlete chooses to accept the pain associated with sports. For me, even in my 33 hr first labor, I did not hit a pain level of 10 until I was pushing, and I only pushed for 20 minutes. My next 3 labors I also did not hit 10 until pushing, and the longest pushing stage of those was 10 minutes.

I certainly do not think it is a good thing to deny women pain relief. As a doula, I've seen that in some labors, pain relief greatly helps the process. Any father of the baby (or any other "support" person) who would deny medicinal pain relief to a laboring mother should be warned once to cease, and then shown the door. Of course this should be done keeping in mind first that some women ask their support people prior to labor to try to talk them out of getting pain relief.


Anonymous said...

Often husbands and boyfriends are told by women to not allow them to have drugs. I think you'll find in most cases the men say this because she told them to.

I see drugs handed out so quickly in Canada. Most hospitals they are offered repeatedly.

My first labour was induced with pitocin and lasted 29 hours. It was extremely painful during the transition but manageable for the rest of the birth. No painkillers necessary. My second labour was induced with gel and AROM and lasted about 8 hours. It was intense and there was some pain during transition, but much better than my first. Intense would be a better word, rather than painful. Not every labour is horribly painful. I found baths, movement and long low moans did wonders for me.

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