Pain relief 'doesn't lead to more satisfying births'

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Despite fewer epidurals, the majority of women in midwife-led units were happy with their pain relief.

MOST IRISH first-time mothers opt for the epidural ... But reducing the pain levels doesn’t necessarily mean a more satisfying birth experience ...

The HSE report involved a study of ... women who had babies in the Midwifery-led Units (MLUs) ... despite having fewer epidurals, 83 per cent of women in the midwife-led units expressed satisfaction with their pain relief, compared with 68 per cent of women in the consultant-led unit.

... midwife-led care was as safe as consultant-led care, resulted in less intervention, gave birthing mothers greater satisfaction and was more cost-effective.

... the epidural was very effective in complicated labours, for example where the birth was being induced or sped up.

However, in normal pregnancy ... three forms of care reduced epidural use: one-to-one care in labour given by a midwife; access to water immersion, ... and access to self- hypnosis or hypnobirthing.

“When those three forms of care are widely available for women, we see quite a low rate of epidural, even in first-time births. These forms of care are available in birth centres and in home birth situations ... ”

... the downsides of epidural use ... included an increase in forceps or vacuum delivery, a lengthening of labour and an increased need for oxytocic drugs to induce labour.

“Research on women’s satisfaction with labour has found that the one-on-one support they got from the midwife was a much more important part of the actual experience than the experience of pain. Paradoxically, a lot of women talk about a high level satisfaction along with a high level of pain.”

Dr Peter Boylan ... had a different opinion ... “The epidural is undoubtedly the most effective form of pain relief ... for a first birth ... A lot of women find that it transforms what is a miserable experience into one they actually enjoy because they are not suffering the awful pain,” he said ...

Melissa Maimann, Essential Birth Consulting 0400 418 448