Back in early times, anesthesia was nonexistent. Women gave birth without any pain relief medication whatsoever—in barns, in huts, in forests hugging trees—and survived. “This is why I say that anesthesia for normal delivery is a luxury,” says Nathan Magpantay, M.D., chairman of the anesthesiology department of Ospital ng Makati and director for special projects of World Citi Medical Center in Quezon City.
But anesthesia can be a good thing, and can greatly help a woman go through the intensity 10-like pain of normal childbirth. Magpantay advises moms, though, to be thoroughly informed and know all about their anesthesia options and their possible complications. Below are some popular forms of pain relief available to the expectant mom during labor, according to Magpantay:
1. Opioid analgesics
An analgesic such as Demerol may be given intra-venously (through IV drip) or injected into a muscle. On a scale of 1 to 10, labor pain may be minimized to 7 or 5. “This may result in breathing problems, though, so it is important for an anesthesiologist to be there. He is trained to handle complications,” says Magpantay. During crowning, when the baby’s head is about to come out, doctors may also put the mom to sleep with tranquilizer so she could rest.
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2. Epidural anesthesia
This is a form of regional anesthesia, where the lower part of your body, from your waist down, becomes numb. Early in labor, an anesthesiologist puts a catheter in the space outside the spinal cord to administer pain medication. Magpantay says nowadays, depending on the amount of medication given, moms can even walk during labor and have only minimal pain—this is what is referred to as “walking epidural.” “Epidural anesthesia is popular among moms because they can be awake and watch their babies come out with only the slightest pain or with no pain at all.”
There are dangers to watch out for, though, says Magpantay. “The chemical given changes the physiology of the body. And because people are different, the body may react differently. Blood pressure, for instance, may go down. But do not be afraid since anesthesiologists can very well handle this and other complications.”
Click here to learn more about general anesthesia.