Dr. William Camann, director of Obstetric Anesthesia at Brigham and Women's Hospital, and co-author of Easy Labor: Every Woman's Guide to Choosing Less Pain and More Joy During Childbirth
answers those nagging questions many moms have about labor. Stork Fund: What are the options for labor pain relief?
There are a lot of different options even though most people immediately think of an epidural, which is the most common form of pain relief. Of the 4 million births that take place in the U.S. each year, approximately 80% of moms receive epidurals. There are other medicines as well as a variety of drug-free options.
- Water therapy, such as immersion in water, a warm shower, or jacuzzi is comforting and soothing for labor.
- Mindful techniques require some training before labor, but can help to ease pain through mental imagery, focus, and mental distraction.
- Simply walking around the labor and delivery floor, or being in the upright position, can comfort and help labor progress. SF: Are epidurals safe for mom and baby?
The epidural procedure is extraordinarily safe; however, there can be side effects. Epidurals can cause a drop in blood pressure, itching, and spinal headaches but these are short-lived effects of the medicine. Sometimes, the epidural doesn't provide enough pain relief, but this can usually be taken care of by the anesthesiologist. The epidurals used at BWH are all "patient-controlled", meaning the patient herself can adjust the amount of medication used, allowing her to control the experience to exactly her desired level of comfort. SF: How common are Cesarean-sections?
C-sections account for approximately 30% of births in the U.S. This means one out of every three women have one. There are different ways to anesthetize for a C-section surgery. 98% of these surgeries at BWH are done under regional (i.e., spinal or epidural) anesthesia, allowing the new mom to be wide awake, but pain free, and allowing her and her partner hold her baby and start bonding immediately. SF: The introduction in your book is entitled, "A New Philosophy, A New Approach" can you talk about how the approach to labor and childbirth has changed?
Mostly, the way we approach pain relief during labor and childbirth has changed significantly. It is increasingly important to keep an open mind during labor and to make decisions based on what is best for you, your baby, and your partner. Don't let anyone coerce you into doing things a certain way - always do what is best for you. Being fully informed about the options is the best way to approach labor. The nurses, anesthesiologists, obstetricians and midwives will work with each individual patient to develop the pain management approach that is best for you during labor. Lastly, never feel guilty for making the decision that suits you best. SF: As the director of obstetric anesthesia at BWH, what is one thing you do to help soon-to-be-new moms experience a more joyful labor?
I try to make their labor experience less about being in the hospital and more about making positive memories about the birth of their child. We always try our best to make the delivery room homey and family focused. SF: Any last words of advice for partners in the delivery-room?
Digital cameras have changed the delivery-room experience. With C-sections, especially, the first time the mother sees her baby is usually on the screen of a digital camera. Take a picture of the clock on the wall at the moment of birth, this is a great way to remember the time and it looks nice next to the baby's first picture as a recollection of the moment. These are moments you want to remember, so make sure your camera battery is charged! http://www.brighamandwomens.org/About_BWH/publicaffairs/news/video/ManagingLaborPainVideo.aspx
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