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Pain relief - why is there stigma against using it?

(169 Posts)
CalamityJ Fri 15-Feb-13 20:34:12

39+6 so seriously beginning to think about the actual birth process (probably about time!). A few NCT friends have given birth already and have a few RL friends who have also given birth in the last few months. The general gist has been that they've made it through childbirth with as little pain relief as possible. One posted on Facebook that he was 'really proud of his wife as she'd done it all without pain relief'. And that made me feel a bit hmm as before then I hadn't thought that people would think worse of me if I went for whatever pain relief I felt was necessary. Speaking to the midwife last week she mentioned the birth plan which has that I want to know when it's becoming too late for an epidural so I can make a decision about if I need it. She basically tried to say I should not bother with one and I should just try for gas and air. I'm not sure why I should feel the need to be a hero and go without pain relief? Would it make me a 'better' mum? Why wouldn't I want to make it as easy as possible on me?

ChoudeBruxelles Fri 15-Feb-13 20:36:01

Epidurals can slow down labour.

LBsBongers Fri 15-Feb-13 20:38:26

Because pain is ennobling, and they give out medals

you do what you need to do

didireallysaythat Fri 15-Feb-13 20:39:51

I don't get it at all. A month or two later and you can't remember how much your baby weighed at birth, let alone if you followed a birth plan. I think I am in the minority though - I don't get the appeal of OBEM either. The birth thing last hours to days max. Being a mother lasts a lifetime.

I hope everything goes smoothly for you, with or without drugs.

PoppyWearer Fri 15-Feb-13 20:41:22

Do what you need to do, definitely!

Every labour is different. I didn't need pain relief beyond gas and air/TENS for my two, but the pain of the contractions with each was different to the other. With the first the contractions were cramps, like period pain, but with the second they were sharp stabby pains.

And if either had been back-to-back, I'm sure I'd have been begging for an epidural!

EldonAve Fri 15-Feb-13 20:41:46

if you've done nct you should be aware of possible downsides to pain relief in childbirth

nothing wrong with people feeling a sense of a achievement for getting through it without it

Scroobius Fri 15-Feb-13 20:42:25

My midwife said that basically it's because the more you want them to intervene with regards to pain relief, the more likely they end up having to intervene with other stuff like forceps, syntocin drips etc.
Having said that she then said but there is absolutely no reason for you to be left in more pain than you can handle. My thinking is that I'm going to assume all will be ok with g&a, birth pool etc then if it does get bad enough I'll escalate through the options as needed.
Basically it's got sod all to do with anyone else what pain relief you need or don't, all that anybody really wants to happen is that you end up with a healthy mum and baby when it's all over!

FayCorgasm Fri 15-Feb-13 20:43:34

It's one day - just do what you need to get through it. My labour was really fast and there was no time for pain relief. There is absolutely no way I would have been able to do that for long without pain relief. If you broke your leg no one would congratulate you for not taking any painkillers. Do what you need to do. Good luck!

marilynmonroe Fri 15-Feb-13 20:44:26

Do what you have to do. When your kids are older you won't be thinking about the birth but what amazing human beings they are.

I hate all this competition about a pain free birth. Some people have a higher pain threshold than others. You might surprise yourself that you can do it without pain relief but don't feel that you have failed because you have pain relief.

A happy mum makes a happy baby.

It's not relevant in a child life how they came out etc. as long as that baby is healthy. Good luck!

HandMini Fri 15-Feb-13 20:45:57

Epidurals and other pain relief can slow down labour, mean you are more out of it so you can't "be in the moment" when your baby is delivered, and may inhibit the natural urge to push when you're fully dilated.

But that only matters if it matters TO YOU.

i used epidurals for both my births..LOVED them. Lots of my friends have had births without pain relief and yes, I'm "proud" of them in a way for being so focussed that they could get by without, but I know that's not me.

LynetteScavo Fri 15-Feb-13 20:46:16

As someone who had an epidural for 12 hours, then pethedene, then a pain free pain relief fredd birth, I can tell you people look at you just as scathingly if you say you needed no pain relief, as if you said you were screaming for an epidural.

Having an epidural, can have the knock on effect of needing intervention, and I suspect that is why your MW suggested trying to go with just gas and air.

There are no prizes either way. You are not big and clever if you give bith without and epidural, just lucky (or very unlucky if you had a first brith like mine.)

CalamityJ Fri 15-Feb-13 20:46:21

Thanks for the reassurance. Am I allowed to say I'd rather have a long less painful labour than a shorter agonising one? confused I had an operation about 2years ago (I know there's that thing where your body releases hormones to help you forget the pain in childbirth) under local anaesthetic and I can still remember the noise that came out of my mouth when I found out the hard way the anaesthetic hadn't numbed the area properly.

elvislives2012 Fri 15-Feb-13 20:48:44

I took it all! G&a, pethidine and epidural and feel proud that I managed to give birth to a healthy beautiful baby. I think u need to do what you want and to he'll with the rest. U won't remember or care about it in a few weeks time!
Congratulations and good luck

saycheeeeeese Fri 15-Feb-13 20:48:53


Pure and simple.

I had an epidural and it was the single most bestestest decision I made during my 13 hours of labour. I was actually laughing and joking with the MW between pushes! smile

OddFrog Fri 15-Feb-13 20:57:06

Wait and see how you feel at the time. If you need it, use it! I didn't need any this time, because it wasn't painful. Damned hard work, but not sore. Exhausting, but not unpleasant. Everyone is different, depends on so many things. I did use the pool and the water was lovely, supported my weight and helped me relax. For dc1 I had a cs and was totally out of it for ages afterwards. I preferred the clarity of thought this time with no drugs.

GoldenGreen Fri 15-Feb-13 21:34:36

But one can say it's possible, maybe preferable (obviously this is debatable) to manage the pain without pharmalogical pain relief without also "stigmatising" the use of that pain relief.

I didn't want to use anything other than gas and air and water, and was lucky in that the circumstances, environment, position of my babies etc. were conducive to that, so my own ability to cope was enhanced and I got what I wanted. (I know though that if my second labour had gone on longer or if I'd not been able to use the pool, that I would have needed something more and would have had no hesitation in using it).

I did feel empowered by what I'd done and it was lovely for me that my partner recognised that.

But I'm sure you have gone through all the advantages/disadvantages of all your options and I hope you get whatever it is you want/need as it all unfolds.

CalamityJ Fri 15-Feb-13 21:41:46

I think it's that I don't necessarily see the disadvantages as such. Getting through it is my aim & I don't like the idea of the midwife telling me I'll regret having pain relief when actually I'm the sort of person who's more likely to regret NOT having it & being made to go through something unnecessarily. Does that make sense to anyone else?

ivykaty44 Fri 15-Feb-13 21:48:16

The general gist has been that they've made it through childbirth with as little pain relief as possible

Thats there issues and concerns - not yours.

I had pethadine with my first, never fancied an epidural (keeping still and long needles were a worry to me at that time in my life) and ended with a emergency c section and so was out all together - so just a tad of chemical intervention.

with dc2 I didn't want epidural again as wanted to go home asap and new that would hinder getting out, so had as much gas and air as I possibly could.

You do what is write for you it is not a competion

ShowOfHands Fri 15-Feb-13 21:55:39

I was in labour for a v long time both times round. First time round I thought that I MUST avoid all pain relief and for myriad reasons. Thought I would be failing, risking intervention, risking the baby getting the drugs across the placenta etc. I spent 30hrs (8hrs at fully dilated) in absolute excruciating pain. I was gripped by the terror of feeling like I was splitting in two. And I don't think it's anything to do with thresholds of pain. No two labours feel the same and what I know now is that the baby was in a v dodgy position and stuck rigidly and the pain was a warning sign. I was so bloodyminded though that I didn't listen to my body.

Second time round I swore that I would do what I needed to do in order to feel in control and not at the mercy of hideous, unrelenting pain. Turns out that even though I was in labour for 38hrs second time round, it was utterly painfree. But I would have had no problem whatsoever with accepting some kind of help 2nd time round because I didn't feel empowered or like I'd achieved a flipping thing for enduring a long, painful labour first time round. I felt traumatised.

nailak Fri 15-Feb-13 22:07:07

you dont see the disadvantages?

well i suggest you do some research.

And then come to the decision that is right for you.

I did find births without pain relief an incredibly empowering experience.

CalamityJ Fri 15-Feb-13 22:10:51

As in I don't necessarily see prolonging labour as a bad thing if it's less painful overall. I get the risks of drugs on baby (pethidine), potential paralysis (epidural) etc. I did listen in my NCT classes. I just think the psychological damage of a traumatic & excruciating birth and therefore potential PTSD should be equally considered.

QTPie Fri 15-Feb-13 22:13:16

Honestly, you are the only one who is feeling the pain when you give birth - your decision and nobody else's (and nobody has the right to judge - before or after).

Do what you feel you need to do and keep your options open.

I did everything natural and hippy to prepare for birth (I am not hippy!) - to cover all the bases - then had an ELCS for breech. Took all the pain relief available and was a very lazy cow - no pain whatsoever... Am I guilty or ashamed - certainly not! wink

Look after yourself.

TransatlanticCityGirl Fri 15-Feb-13 22:33:09

In my NCT class, I was the only person who definitely wanted an epidural. One was older and therefore had an open mind - she just wanted her baby however it happened. One was planning a home birth. All the others (5) were booked in for a natural birth in the midwife led unit and reminded me on several occasions about the 'cascade of interventions' - some seemed even a bit evangelical about it all.

Not a single person out of 8 had the birth they wanted or planned for and many felt disappointed as a result. The lesson I learned: birth plans are nice to have (it lets the midwives know what you'd prefer and they will accommodate that as much as possible) but you really can't predict what YOUR labour will be like.

I also wonder about the cascade of interventions hype. Does having an epidural really CAUSE additional interventions? Or is it just LINKED to other interventions because the kind of person who tends to have an epidural is someone who is having a long labour, who are finding the pain unbearable & getting tired... factors that might lead midwives to believe a little extra assistance is needed.

As for me, at 42 weeks I was induced. First they tried the gel (2 applications)... nothing. then they broke my waters.... nothing. then they put me on the syntocin... pretty much nothing - never made it past 6cm. And finally my DD was born 3 days later by EMCS. So definitely not the birth I was planning.

HOWEVER, the good news, is that I had a pain free childbirth. Literally zero pain, because nothing was working, and when they finally put me on the drip, they gave me the epidural too (I was advised there was no point not having it, it wouldn't slow the syntocin down).

So I was happily reading magazines, chatting, sleeping, and even dialing in to conference calls at work all while 'in labour'.

And while I would have preferred to not have a c-section, I have to admit, I couldn't have had a better birth experience. And if anything, in my case I'd say it was being induced that caused the cascade of interventions, not the epidural.

FrustratedSycamoresRocks Fri 15-Feb-13 22:37:26

I can't have g&a for medical reasons. So after tens it's straight to the pethadine option.

With my 1st I wrote no epidural, and ended up having one anyway.
With my 2nd I didn't write anything down. I had tens and pethadine and asked for an epidural (which I didn't get because it was too late)
Looking back I'm glad I didn't have the epidural for the simple fact that I could get up and have a bath straight after instead of being sponge washed by a midwife.

I've had friends have had bigger babies, with no pain relief, and one with a back-to-back who only had g&a, and thought nothing more than "bloody hell I couldn't do that"

I'm currently pg with no.3, and will use the pain relief that I need. I know my pain threshold and how much pain I can take, and if I feel I need the drugs I'll ask for them. I don't see why there needs to be any competition about it.
And I've never had the community midwife who I saw throughout pregnancy at the maternity unit anyway.

Of you want the pain relief when you are in labour then theres no shame in asking for it.

Phineyj Fri 15-Feb-13 22:43:26

I understand the research shows that an important factor is how well supported you feel during birth, as part of pain is subjective. I felt well supported during birth (had an independent midwife who I'd been seeing for six months by that point) and so I didn't need any pain relief for that part (I also found the birthing pool and being able to move around as I wanted very helpful)-- but I ended up having an EMCS and I have to say the spinal block was absolutely brilliant!

One tip I was given (but did not need to use as went into labour naturally) was to demand an epidural if you are induced by drip as the pain can ramp up very quickly.

Don't be a hero...the main thing is you and the baby come out safely and that the labour doesn't overshadow you becoming a mum.

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