Moms-to-Be Need Facts on Pain Control

FRIDAY Sept. 4, 2009 -- Expectant mothers should be informed about all of the pain management options available to them during labor and delivery, according to the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA).

Over the past three decades, major advances have been made in labor and delivery pain control, Dr. Craig Palmer, chairman of the ASA's committee on obstetrical anesthesia, explained in a news release from the society.

"While the Internet has immeasurably increased the quantity and accessibility of medical information, it has also fostered the spread of misinformation about pain management and childbirth. The goal of this campaign is to provide the public with accurate, impartial and scientifically supported information to help expectant mothers make choices that are right for them," Palmer said in the news release.

The society offers the following facts:

  • Pain management during labor and delivery is an individual decision, and women shouldn't feel pressured to either accept or refuse pain relief medication. Women should be as informed as possible and keep their options open. Pregnant women should discuss the issue with their doctors and, if desired, meet with an anesthesiologist before labor and delivery.
  • Four basic types of anesthesia are used during labor and delivery. These include epidurals, spinal blocks, a combination of both epidural and spinal block, and general anesthesia. Women should work with the anesthesiologist to determine the most appropriate one for them.
  • Pain management has no effect on labor, except in rare and exceptional cases. The decision to use pain relief medication is largely a question of the comfort of the mother. Contrary to claims frequently cited on the Internet, there's no credible evidence to show that epidurals or other forms of pain management slow or speed labor, lead to Cesarean sections or are associated with a higher incidence of depressed infants.
  • Women don't have to wait until they are dilated to a certain level before they can ask for, or receive, an epidural. The primary guidelines for epidural use are that the woman requests pain relief, can remain still while the epidural is administered and is not in the process of delivering.
  • Contrary to common belief, women with lower back tattoos can get an epidural. The injection won't cause ink from the tattoo to enter the bloodstream or cause complications for the mother or baby.

More information

The Nemours Foundation has more about dealing with pain during childbirth.

Posted: September 2009


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