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What's the negative side of taking the drugs during childbirth?

(71 Posts)
weeblueberry Mon 26-Nov-12 16:26:37

I suspect this is a really stupid question that is going to have some incredibly obvious answers so apologies in advance.

It seems as though most mums nowadays at least attempt a natural birth before accepting any drug involvement. But having spoken to women of my mums generation (mum, my boss, my aunt) they've all said they accepted the drugs they were given and it didn't have any sort of adverse affect on the baby.

Now I'm sure there must be a downside. There must be something I'm being too dim to notice, but what exactly is the reason for having a natural birth as opposed to accepting pain relief?

The only thing that's truly put me off so far was that we were watching an episode of OBEM and as soon as the mother was given the drugs she suddenly had this horrible glazed over look in her eyes as though she wasn't with it at all. She managed to push etc but honestly looked as though she was on another planet.

So tell me ladies, other than being able to say 'I did it naturally', what's the benefit to saying no to pain relief?

janey68 Tue 11-Dec-12 07:15:20

I think it's interesting how many women go for epidural first time round, but for subsequent births are very keen to try without. If epidurals were really so wonderful and what everyone wanted, then surely these women would be jumping at one for every birth.

I agree with the comments upthread about it being the norm in the Uk to labour in a hospital, with doctors and midwives you've never met, when in reality the majority of births could be uncomplicated.

I had dc1 with a few whiffs of gas and air- yea it was bloody painful, I don't think anything compares to first time birth- but i was in control, didn't end up with the cascade of intervention (which you only have to watch OBEM to witness) and it made me confident that if i could manage it first time then I could manage it subsequently

EvenIfYouSeeAPoppy Mon 10-Dec-12 07:33:32

I had an epidural with dc1. Upside: blessed relief from the frustrating, exhausting, unproductive pain - I was entering the third day of contractions and still only 3cm. After it was in I dilated fully within the hour shock

Downside: It then caused the contractions to tail off, meaning I ended up with a syntocin drip and it was another several hours before i finally gave birth by ventouse. I still felt the contractions (non-painfully) but had to concentrate very hard on them rather than them taking over. Losing that sense of my body working which comes with the pain was highly disorientating in retrospect.

Second birth I arrived at hospital under what I thought were pretty moderate contractions, was discovered to be 9cm dilated and had given birth (also by ventouse due to sudden drop in heart rate) half an hour later. Obv no time for any pain relief (where I am G&A isn't used). The pain was very intense but I had a sense throughout of working towards the birth and feeling the head come was very powerful.

I don't know what would have happened in my first birth if I hadn't had the epidural, but any future birth I will not want to have one.

Nikki2510 Mon 10-Dec-12 07:23:49

I just gave birth to my DS last Wednesday so still very fresh in my head... I had a Tens machine, Gas and Air and a shot of Pethidine. The tens and Gas and Air I found quite useful.

The pethidine I had because I was getting moaned at for not taking pain relief and I had no idea whether my contractions were full on or how much worse they would get. To be honest, all it did for me was make me as high as a kite - I was definitely hallucinating at one point and very dozy. I don't think it helped with the pain at all and I wouldn't want it again. The midwives etc were also trying to persuade me to have an epidural but I managed to hold out against that - I did ask about Diamorphine but the hospital doesn't offer that as an option.

whatsoever Fri 07-Dec-12 19:02:24

I strongly didn't want an epidural because I didn't want the cascade of intervention. I ended up with all the intervention but without the lovely pain killing effect of an epidural. I'll ask for the epidural when I arrive if there is a next time!

I had diamorphine, and a scary couple of days where DS didn't feed (which staff said was likely the diamorphine in his system) but he quickly caught up & is now an EBF 12lb15oz 7 week old so I would take it again. It didn't make me sick or out of it but did make me stop fearing the pain for a bit.

I had no urge to push & my attempts at pushing had no effect so I ended up having forceps on theatre. So much for my birth plan (pool, gas & air only).

blackcurrants Fri 07-Dec-12 13:04:07

I'm in America, where they don't offer gas & air (more's the pity, it sounds like fun). I decided to avoid the opiates as opiates tend to make me fuzzy and out of it, and I wanted to avoid an Epidural as I was afraid of the cascade of interventions, which is extremely common in American hospitals: namely that the epidural slows down labour, so you're put on pitocin to speed it up, which hurts more, so your epidural needs topping up, which slows down labour, so you need more pitocin, and so on until your body 'stalls' and you're told your labour has 'failed to progress' and suddenly you're being whisked off for a C section.

I had to go back to work 6 weeks after birth and so I REALLY wanted to avoid a C section and have a relatively swift recovery.

As it happened, I had to be induced due to low amniotic fluid, and got to 6cm using hypnobirthing techniques, but around then they were worried about my BP (after 15 hours in labour) and so gave me an epidural and told me to take a 3-4 hour nap, wake up, and push the baby out. That's exactly what I did. The epidural felt lovely (didn't feel it going into my spine) - warm and fuzzy and then numb, and I slept (while I slept they gave me more pitocin as the epidural had slowed down my labour) and then woke as I felt the epidural wear off. I could absolutely feel to push ( and it hurt, so I suspect the epidural had completely worn off) and pushing felt GOOD, though I think it would have been easier/ faster if I had been able to stand and squat - as a result of the epidural I only had back/side options, which was sad. DS was sleepy and I had a hard time latching him but I think that was a result of a long long labour rather than the epidural.

For me the real drawback of the epidural was not being able to move freely afterwards. I could feel my legs just fine but they wouldn't let me out of the bed, and so I had to buzz for ages for a bedpan, etc, and at one point thought "bugger it, I'll make a run for the loo if they don't come soon'' - but got then bollocked for sitting up with my feet on the floor and trying to stand!

Going in again soon - DS2 is due any day - and I will try again to get to at least 6-7cms without an epidural as they DO slow me down and pitocin makes things much more painful for me - but now I've had one I'm less anti-epidurals than I was before the first birth.

Ideally I'd like to do it drug-free so I can have a swifter and more straightforward recovery afterwards, be able to take a shower straightaway and not to be told I have to stay in bed for x more hours, etc. But who knows what this one will bring? each birth, like each baby, is different.

LaVolcan Fri 07-Dec-12 11:47:44

Yermina - I agree with you. Most of that happened to me, apart from the maternity hospital being in a separate building to the main hospital. But then I was given an epidural, which didn't work properly, and that's why I was baffled as to why people thought they were so wonderful.

Second time round I took the 'stay the hell out of hospital approach' and had a home birth - same midwife at each appointment and delivery, mostly the same midwife postnatally. Oh how I wished I had known that that standard of care was available the first time round.

Yermina Fri 07-Dec-12 11:37:35

"This all left me baffled as to why people sing the praises of epidurals"

Most women labour in an unfamiliar birthing environment on a site otherwise filled with sick and dying people, many have their labour augmented with syntocinon, are often required to stay motionless on their bottoms on a bed while having strong contractions, are cared for by someone they have never met before, who may not be able to spend much time or energy on supporting them because of exhaustion or simply having too many other women to look after. Most women will have the experience of having a hand stuck up their vagina at regular intervals during labour so that the person who's looking after them can document what's happening with the birth. These things are all common practice in UK hospitals and the normal experience of many mums having babies. IMO all these things work against the normal hormonal physiology of labour and therefore make it much, much more of a challenge.

I think epidurals are the answer to routine hospital practices. The other answer might be 'waterbirth', 'hypnobirthing', or 'stay the hell out of hospital!'.

shoppingtrolley Fri 07-Dec-12 11:06:13

The drugs made my baby sleepy and unhappy, and the drips made me bloated (as in full body bloated). Epidural was a bad experience. It was way too strong so I went from being in agony to hardly feeling anything. Ask them to give you a weak epidural.

Loislane78 Tue 04-Dec-12 17:49:25

OP - I know this isn't your question and you should research the options, effects, pros/cons etc. but my advice is to have an open mind as you don't know how you'll feel and how things will progress.

If you want a drug free birth by all means go for that but pls don't feel bad if you need something. I've heard this so many times from friends as if everything went 'wrong' because it didn't go according to their birth plan.

GL smile

Midgetm Sat 01-Dec-12 10:24:10

Brettgirl am I your friend? I had ventouse and wished I'd had a Epidural.

What is pants is that different pain relief suits different people but as you've not tried them, nor know how you will react to them you find out when in labour. If I am ever crazy enough to try again I'd like a practice run at the drugs cabinet. grin or have gin.

brettgirl2 Sat 01-Dec-12 10:05:18

Of course there are advantages to epidural. If you need an emcs then it can be done quicker and in a real emergency you will avoid general. It is also much better if you do end up with an instrumental delivery anyway. My friend had very traumatic ventouse with no pain relief.

I had pethidine with my first daughter and blamed it for breastfeeding problems. I had easy homebirth with my second and had exactly the same problems. Pethidine definitely did help me through long back to back labour first time around.

Personally the thought of having an epidural frightens the living daylights out of me but thats just me.

OP I think our mothers' generation was lucky in a lot of ways they gave birth without all the NCT type pressure. Natural is best in my experience when all is easy and works well. The biggest factor as far as I can see is luck in terms of how it works out.

sugarandspite Sat 01-Dec-12 09:27:12

Just wanted to add that when you are considering the opinions and experiences of your mum and other women of her generation, depending upon their age and the community they lived in, their experiences of birth and raising babies may be vastly different to your own.

For most women, birth was a much more heavily medicalised experience, with more doctor involvement even in normal low risk births. Most patients (and particularly labouring women) had much less autonomy and authority when it came to making decisions about or questioning their care - for example my MIL was both horrified and amazed at the thought of a birth plan: 'but you just do what the doctor tells you!'. She tells me all labouring women were shaved and given an enema just because 'that's how you do it' - another practice no longer in use.

Also breastfeeding rates were much lower and medical advice on breastfeeding frequently flawed: 10mins each side every 3 hours, babies in communal nurseries, little skin to skin etc - so breastfeeding if attempted commonly failed with explanations of 'not having enough milk'.
So any impacts of the labour drugs on breastfeeding were less likely to be recognised by mothers.

And most women stayed in hospital for 7-10 days after birth, so the issues surrounding immediate recovery from labour / drugs also less significant and so less recognised. And the food was apparently better and babies were in the nursery so the postnatal ward was a much more enjoyable place than it is now!

RooneyMara Sat 01-Dec-12 08:54:16

I think it's because you feel no pain! smile

I certainly realised that was a bonus when I had ds2 without anything. In fact that's probably why I had another baby...I had no idea how much it hurts!

I'm kind of dreading this one.

LaVolcan Sat 01-Dec-12 08:48:53

Well Midgetm for me it was the complete opposite. Perhaps it wasn't a well-administered epidural, but I couldn't feel my legs, couldn't feel to push, had forceps, and couldn't walk for a good few hours afterwards. Plus my daughter's head was bruised - possibly from the forceps or from pushing without being able to feel what I was doing.

Without one, or any drugs, I could move, could get into a comfortable position, work with my body, didn't tear, gave birth to a fantastically alert son, and felt tremendously empowered.

This all left me baffled as to why people sing the praises of epidurals but obviously they are a godsend for some women, so it's a difficult choice.

RooneyMara Sat 01-Dec-12 08:40:25

Sounds good - maybethat's what they call a 'mobile epidural' in the books I read. I wasn't allowed one like that though sad

I'm just hoping that this labour will be even faster (last was 3.5 hours) and that I won't have, or have time, to go anywhere other than my own bedroom smile

Midgetm Sat 01-Dec-12 04:55:54

Having had two very different births one with and one without an epidural I would go for a well administered epidural any day. With epidural I could still feel my legs (a spinal is the one where you can't and that is horrible). Could still walk and pushed out my daughter, without tearing. Without one I could barely move because of the pain, i tore, and thought I may die. I am with the French on thinking we are all a but bonkers on the pain relief. Sometimes it gets a bit like a peeing competition. If you choose the right pain relief at the right time it can be a godsend.

Gas and air is marvellous. Makes the time go faster and I thought I was at a festival at one stage which is preferable to the reality. Personally I would avoid pethadine but each to their own.

Have an open mind and Go with whatever you need to get through. as long as you don't beat yourself up about your choices.

minifingers Fri 30-Nov-12 19:43:17

Harlett - I've heard midwives commenting that reminfentinyl is quite useful and women often like it, except they have to watch the woman and nudge her sometimes if she stops breathing! (like any other opioid it depresses respiration....)

PrincessSymbian Fri 30-Nov-12 17:28:53

I stumbled across a study while pregnant with my daughter that linked drug use in labour to people being more prone to abuse drugs when they were grown! I'm sure that it was not a very accurate study.
IMO gas and air is the bees knees but having also experienced fentanyl recently, well, it was lovely stuff.
Pethadine did nothing for my pain, just made me totally out of it, I had it just before they ruptured my membranes, which made my contractions go off the scale. Then had am epidural to go with the syntocin they put me on, which was very helpful with the pain but I did not like being immobile.

RooneyMara Fri 30-Nov-12 17:06:39

oh yes and, and, and ...I forgot. Because I'd had an epidural I was strapped to a monitor on my back, and couldn't move. Then ds's heartbeat dropped dramatically and someone had to run for a doctor.
then I was being wheeled into a delivery room where they debated whether to prep me for a CS or use a ventouse.

In the end they used neither and I managed to give birth 'naturally', but had to be cut. I could not feel anything at all.

There is a cascade of intervention, there really is. It is very hard to avoid once you have agreed to one thing. And you can feel quite bullied into things you don't know the risks of because you feel rude refusing, or too worried to refuse in case it's really necessary.

You don't get the chance to make an informed decision. It can be rather frightening.

RooneyMara Fri 30-Nov-12 17:02:41

I've had a birth with no pain relief at all, and a birth with an epidural and G&A.

The G&A made my mouth dry and wasn't very helpful.

The epidural was Ok at the time but I had a reaction to it after, (I think it must have been that) and couldn't stop being sick.

So for me avoiding both these things the second time was quite a positive thing. Also I couldn't feel my legs after the epidural for about 24 hours. And I didn't like being in the hospital.

So to have that sense of control over my own body was quite important to me.

HarlettOScara Fri 30-Nov-12 16:56:27

*Bionic,, remifentanil Is used in the hospital three I gave birth in. It was one of the options I discussed with the anaesthetist. Iirc, he stated that it's not actually licensed for use on labour but that there is sufficient evidence to assess its safety. To GE honest, while he described all the pros and cons of ur, I got the distinct impression that he didn't rate it and given the choice between it and epidural, he would recommend epidural.

I know several people who have used it on labour and reviews are mixed. Done loved it, others said that it made them feel too spaced out, sleepy and out of control. I guess like the other options, it comes down to individual tolerance. The common side effects (nausea and extreme itching) were enough to put me off and as it relies on precision timing to be effective, I wasn't sure I'd be able to manage it well enough in the throes of labour.

Dogsmom Fri 30-Nov-12 13:23:44

I was given pain relief leaflets from my MW this morning, they say (brief version):-

Gas & air - breathed in at start of a contraction and takes 20 secs to take effect, not harmful to you or baby but can make you feel dry and nauseous if usd for a long period so better used later in labour than the sole source throughout, some women feel happy or weepy but this wears off as soon as you stop using it.

Injection ie Pethidine - Can be used alone or inconjunction with gas or TENS, pain not relieved completely and some women have more benefit that others, can cause nausea so anti nausea drug often given at same time.
Baby may be sleepy. Can be given every 4 hours.

Epidural - Most effective form of pain relief, inserted into spine after local anaesthetic, pain relief within 10-20 minutes which is topped up throughout. Has little effect on the baby.
Possible side effects: Heavy legs so may find difficulty walking or passing urine, heart rate may drop but you are continuously monitored, shivering & itching.

Some studies suggest that epidurals in early labour may result in higher risk of forceps or caesarian however other studies have not confirmed this.
Recent research shows you are no more likely to suffer backache after having epidural for labour

BionicEmu Fri 30-Nov-12 12:08:56

Last pregnancy I was admitted at 33 weeks in pre-term labour, at 2cm dilated. After 8 hours I was still at 2cm, so they were fairly sure baby wasn't coming soon and it was getting late, so they gave me 2 temazepam tablets and a shot of pethidine to try and get me some sleep.

An hour later I buzzed the MW because it had had zero effect on me. Turns out the only reason she hadn't come to check on me was because the combination of temazepam and pethidine should have knocked me out. She gave another pethidine injection, but still nothing. I remember her saying "how are you still awake, never mind fully with it?". It didn't take any pain away, didn't make me relaxed or sleepy or anything, I just had a sore thigh from the injections.

But, I have spinal & pelvic problems anyway. Before pregnancy I was taking diazepam and either morphine or tramadol, during pregnancy I had to reduce that to no diazepam and just dihydrocodeine. So the thinking was that I have a high tolerance to opioids.

Due to spinal issues, I can't have an epidural, so was supposed to get a remi-fentanyl PCA pump, but in the end just laboured with gas & air as once labour got going properly it was very quick.

Now pregnant with DC2 at a different hospital, who have said they don't use pethidine as it does nothing. They use diamorphine instead. Tolerance will probably still be an issue, so am hoping to actually have time to give the remi-fentanyl a go this time!

I don't know anybody who has used it, but it sounds v good. Seems to be effective pain relief as long as you use it properly, but has a very short half-life so doesn't affect the baby like pethidine can. It's not widely used though, but I don't know why, maybe cost? The only reason I have it as an option is because I can't have an epidural (& yep, that means if I need a CS I'll have to be knocked out under a general anaesthetic.). Having a 2-inch long deep tear repaired with only a local anaesthetic & gas and air was not fun though. (Don't know what degree tear I had, they never said. Perineum was intact, but I'd torn internally right through the vagina and muscle, the only thing left was the rectal mucosa.)

LaVolcan Thu 29-Nov-12 16:13:53

the reason for the cascade of intervention is mostly because women in the UK who have an epidural are generally the ones who have "worse" labours. So have been induced or have a back to back labour or have pelvis shape problems.

Or they don't get the support that they should be getting, so panic and their labours become worse than they needed to have been.

Absolutely agree with javotte's post of 15:43:21. I was OK with my daughter's birth with an epidural but couldn't help but feel I was a bit of a bystander and that if she could have been brought into the world without me, everyone would have been much happier. With my son, drug free, better for him and better and more empowering for me.

Weissdorn Thu 29-Nov-12 15:57:38

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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