• Sedation during Labor: Understanding your Choices

    Don’t let the fear of labor overshadow the excitement of what will be one of your definitive moments in life.
    by Dr. Natasha Balbas .
  • syringeChildbirth is one of few life experiences that is as thrilling the third and fourth time as it is on the first. You’d be hard-pressed to find a woman who wouldn’t want to be mentally and physically present for the birth of her every child. Yet underneath the anticipation lies a tinge of apprehension about the ease of labor and delivery. Horror stories from well-meaning friends and family may add to these fears, not to mention all the drama seen in movies and television. Understanding your options for pain relief as well as the risks and benefits involved in sedation will help to give you a reality check so that you make decisions not out of fear, but out of logic and good common sense.

    Being fully sedated may seem like a good idea initially, particularly if you’re terrified of needles and intimidating medical equipment, or have an extremely low tolerance for pain. “Quick and painless” seems ideal, but realistically, full sedation takes the mother- a key player in this process- out of the equation. This is no insignificant point, considering that women’s bodies are equipped with all the right materials and necessary biological processes to ensure ease and safety (albeit painful) of a natural birth. In other words, you’re not just designed to give birth - you’re designed to be able to endure it.

    Ob-Gyne Karen Ty-Torredes, MD, FPOGS, of St. Luke’s Hospital at Global City, is a proponent of active participation in labor. She states, “The climax of the past nine months is reached and it is always important for a woman to experience this. Once a woman is given sedation to relieve pain during labor, she will not be awake to live through this moment. Her last memory will be of the pain of her contractions.” Dr. Torredes explains that full sedation may also alter a woman’s mental status, make her groggy and fog her memory. In fact, according to American Pregnancy Association, women who are fully sedated during labor tend to have no memory of the labor and delivery whatsoever, even if the sedatives allowed them to be physically awake during the process.

    For this reason, Dr. Torredes prefers that her patients receive a spinal anesthesia (epidural or saddleblock), which ultimately allows them to be both mentally and physically aware of the process. “With this type of anesthesia, the woman is awake and conscious during a very important event in her life but she is free from any pain.” Importantly, she adds, “[The mother] is aware of everything around her and everything that is being done to her. I like that I am able to talk to my patients during delivery and that they are able to participate and experience this moment in their lives.” Furthermore, if fatigue sets in from a prolonged labor, you’re likely to become more irritable and anxious, which can ruin your focus and make the pain seem more unbearable. A mild sedative can help you relax so that you can muster up that last bit of strength needed to push through. An epidural anesthesia can also provide pain relief during recovery after a C-section.

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