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Normal Labor and Delivery Process

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Pain Treatments continued...

Some of the more commonly used pain-relief methods include:

MedicationsSeveral drugs are used to help ease the pain of labor and delivery. Although these drugs are generally safe for the mother and baby, as with any drugs, they have the potential for side effects.

Pain-relieving drugs fall into two categories: analgesics and anesthetics.

Analgesics relieve pain without the total loss of feeling or muscle movement. During labor, they may be given systemically by injection into a muscle or vein or regionally by injection into the lower back to numb your lower body. A single injection into the spinal fluid that relieves pain quickly is referred to as a spinal block. An epidural block continuously administers pain medication to the area around your spinal cord and spinal nerves through a catheter inserted into the epidural space. Possible risks of both include decreased blood pressure, which can slow the baby's heart rate, and headache.

Anesthetics block all feeling, including pain. They also block muscle movement. General anesthetics cause you to lose consciousness. If you have a cesarean delivery, you may be given general, spinal, or epidural anesthesia. The appropriate form of anesthesia will depend on your health, your baby's health, and the medical conditions surrounding your delivery.

Non-Drug Options. Non-drug methods for relieving pain include acupuncture, hypnosis, relaxation techniques, and changing position frequently during labor. Even if you choose non-drug pain relief, you can still ask for pain medications at any point during your delivery.

What to Expect After Delivery

Just as your body went through many changes before birth, it will go through transitions as you recover from childbirth.

Physically you may experience the following:

  • Pain at the site of the episiotomy or laceration. An episiotomy is a cut made by your doctor in the perineum (the area between the vagina and the anus) to help deliver the baby or prevent tearing. If this was done, or the area was torn during birth, the stitches may make walking or sitting difficult. It also can be painful when you cough or sneeze during the healing time.
  • Sore breasts. Your breasts may be swollen, hard, and painful for several days as your milk comes in. Your nipples may also be sore.
  • Hemorrhoids. Hemorrhoids (swollen varicose veins in the anal area) are common after pregnancy and delivery.
  • Constipation. Having a bowel movement may be difficult for a few days after delivery. Hemorrhoids, episiotomies, and sore muscles can cause pain with bowel movements.
  • Hot and cold flashes. Your body's adjustment to changing levels of hormones and blood flow can cause you to perspire one minute and reach for a blanket to cover yourself the next.
  • Urinary or fecal incontinence. Muscles stretched during delivery, particularly after a long labor, may cause you to leak urine when you laugh or sneeze or may make it difficult to control bowel movements.
  • "After pains." After giving birth, you will continue to experience contractions for a few days as your uterus returns to its pre-pregnancy size. You may notice contractions most while your baby is nursing.
  • Vaginal discharge(lochia). Immediately following birth you will experience a bloody discharge heavier than a regular period. Over time, the discharge will fade to white or yellow and then stop entirely within two months.
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