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Even if your planning a natural birth, you should do your homework ahead of time on pain management options, just in case.
"Almost everyone uses some kind of pain killer or analgesic during labor. And that can consist of either a narcotic that's given through the IV tubing or an epidural," says Dr. Robert Aepli, OB/GYN.
Pain killers given through an IV will also go into the baby's blood stream.
"Narcotics will depress respirations in the newborn. So the administration of narcotics such as Nubain or Demerol has to be timed so that the maximum effect of the narcotic is not going to occur when the baby is born," says Aepli.
The most popular option for pain relief is an epidural.
"This does not go into your blood supply at all. It bathes the nerve roots as they come off the spinal cord in the epidural space, almost like when a dentist numbs your tooth," says Nanci Rogers, Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist.
An epidural is when a catheter is placed into your back using a needle. It can numb most of your labor pain, but you will still have some feeling.
"You will feel some pressure and discomfort and most women cannot be 100 percent comfortable at delivery time. They need their muscle strength and their ability to push that baby out," says Rogers.
An epidural can slow down the labor process, however doctors have medicine they can administer to counteract that. They will also give you an IV to keep your and the baby's blood pressure up. Rogers says most patients are glad they got one.
"Many moms are very nervous about receiving a needle in the back, because first of all it's an unknown. It's not an area people work on very often, but in the end almost everyone says it's never as bad as they thought, that labor is much worse than the actual epidural," she says.
Once you have an epidural you will be confined to bed for the rest of your labor. And if you wait too long to make a decision you may pass the window where an epidural is an option.
Genesis Bethesda Hospital always has an anesthesiology specialist on hand to give an epidural day or night 365 days a year.