at Mason General Hospital
There are many options and choices at the Birth Center at MGH for reducing discomfort in labor. This overview will help you become familiar with these options and think about what you may want when you come in for labor and delivery of your baby. Most women find a combination of techniques helps most in labor. If one thing does not work well, try something else.
One of the most important things is having someone you trust to support you in labor. Choosing one or two people in your life that you love and can depend on will be your best source of emotional support. The obstetrical nursing staff will be a good source of information and support during your labor. Having a Doula is another option. Doulas are professional labor support people, usually hired by patients for this role. They meet with you in advance so you are familiar and comfortable with each other before labor. There are several good online sources that have more information.
Childbirth preparation classes and a number of books teach ways to relax and cope with contractions and other sensations of labor. Most methods use relaxation exercises, breathing exercises, and some mild stretching and positioning exercises. It is a good idea to start these exercises several months before your due date. You will need a support partner to help you with these. Your partner watches for signs of tension, helps with positioning, offers massage and touch support, and gives verbal reminders of your chosen techniques.
You know best what environments make you comfortable. Some people like soft music, few people around other than their primary support person, and a quiet atmosphere. Others like energizing music, lots of distractions, and many family members present.
Plan for what is comforting to you, and let your family, friends, and primary support people know your expectations of them. You can bring music players with you to use in your labor rooms.
The Birth Center at MGH has several birthing balls available for help in positioning and comfort. They can be especially helpful for those with back labor.
Using touch or heat/cold sensation directly to uncomfortable areas often is effective in reducing discomfort. Your support person and/or nursing staff can assist with massage. The staff at MGH's Birth Center can provide warm and cold packs, and you can let them know which feel better. Alternating warm and cold also may help.
If you are able to be out of bed and off the fetal monitor, a warm bath can be soothing. Recent research shows that water immersion does not increase infection risk. Remember to always have assistance getting in and out of a tub when in labor.
Hypnosis, Aromatherapy, Acupressure and Acupuncture
While we do not have practitioners of these complementary medical practices on our regular staff, we welcome any that you invite or hire personally to attend to you. We will work with them for your comfort and your and the baby's safety. Please let your healthcare provider know your plans in advance so they are supportive of your choices.
There are several narcotic medications that we have available which are chosen for their combination of pain relief and safety. They usually are given in the IV, but occasionally as an intramuscular injection (shot). The most common ones are very rapid-acting, but short-acting. This helps clear them from you and your baby's system for minimal side effects at delivery.
Intrathecal Narcotics (ITN/Spinal)
This method is very effective for typically several hours of pain relief in during labor. Long-lasting narcotics are injected into the back, but unlike epidurals, no medication is used numbs the muscles. For that reason, with an ITN, you are able to walk and move about more (with assistance, please). There is more sensation with pushing, and pushing time is usually shorter than with numbing epidurals.
This method involves using a needle to place a flexible catheter (a very small nylon tube), into the back. The needle is removed once the catheter is correctly positioned. The catheter is then connected to a pump which delivers numbing medication during labor. The catheter is usually left in, and connected to the pump, up until the baby is delivered. While the epidural is in place, you will usually not be able to walk because the medication typically numbs everything from your waist downward, including your legs. Epidurals are helpful because the anesthesia provider can adjust the amount of medication as needed, during your labor. There is also a button that you, the patient, can push if additional medication is needed from the pump.
Labor always ends, and your baby is the joyful result. Let your caregivers at Mason General Hospital & Family of Clinics know your plans and how we can support you. Ask us any time to explain any of the above techniques in more detail. Our biggest hope is that you have a good experience with us.