Are drugs 'better for labour pain'?

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New research shows taking drugs to relieve pain during labour works better than alternatives like massage, machines and hypnosis.

Painkillers like an epidural, and gas and air, are more effective than softer approaches, but do have more side effects.

... being immersed in water, relaxation techniques, acupuncture, massage and non-opioid drugs may work with fewer adverse effects.

I don't suppose there is any doubt that pharmacological methods of pain relief are superior than natural methods for the absolute relief of pain. We can use epidurals for operations; who would even doubt that it would be ineffective for use in labour?

If we focus on pain "relief", then yes, drugs are the answer.

But if we focus on labour pain as a healthy pain that we can work with, and focus our energy in pregnancy on learning ways of working with the pain, we then find that most women feel they don;t "need" pharmacological pain relief in labour.

When we really think about it, an average labour might be around 8 hours. But is this 8 hours of pain? No. When labour is in full swing, contractions might come every 3 minutes and last for a minute. That means that we would have a contraction for a minute and a break for two minutes. In other words, the eight hour labour has now become two hours and forty minutes of contractions and five hours and 20 minutes without a contraction. Does that sound more manageable? Next, we know that the whole contraction isn't intense, it is only the peak of the contraction that is intense. Maybe about 20-30 seconds of each contraction. It's much easier to think of ways of getting through 20-30 seconds of intense sensation every 3 minutes, rather than thinking of eight hours of agony. Women who take some time in pregnancy to consider strategies for dealing with the sensations of labour and birth, and who choose a care provider who is experienced in natural, drug-free birth, frequently find that the thought of drugs never even crossed their mind!

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