Pain-free childbirth? Get real!

March 14, 2008

A pain-free and drug-free labour may be many expectant mothers’ dream but a review in the open access journal BMC Medicine reveals that reality hits hard. Most women's labour experiences differ markedly from their expectations. They are often ill-prepared for what might happen and consequently may be disappointed when the birth does not “go to plan”.

The study's authors conclude that antenatal programmes should “get real”. “People involved in antenatal care should listen to women’s hopes for labour whilst also preparing them for what might actually happen during labour,” said Joanne Lally of Newcastle University, who led the investigation. “Plans for a labour free of pain relief need to be complemented by preparing women for the possibility that they might need pain relief. Education can help to fill the gap between expectation and experience and thus ensure women are realistically prepared for their birthing experience.”

The research team from Newcastle University studied published literature on women’s expectations and experience of pain and pain relief in labour. They found that a gap exists between expectations and experience in four key areas: the level and type of pain, access to pain relief, the level of participation in and control over decision–making, and the level of control during labour.

Most of the literature reviewed showed that women underestimate the intensity of the pain they will experience and sometimes hold an unrealistic ideal for a drug-free labour. Indeed, in one study, more than half of the women interviewed who said they would not use pain relief actually did use it.

”Our analysis highlights the importance of antenatal education. It can empower women to have realistic expectations and make informed decisions,” notes the author.

“If women can be better educated they can express their preferences but also be aware that things may not always go to plan. They can then be prepared for different eventualities and so make more realistic decisions and have a better experience.”

Birth plans or other decision aids can assist women when making decisions about pain relief in labour, but evidence suggests these are not widely used. Recent guidelines published by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) call for more research into how health professionals can effectively support pregnant women in making informed decisions about labour.

Source: BioMed Central

Explore further: Lactate measurement improves treatment during labour

Related Stories

Lactate measurement improves treatment during labour

October 28, 2016

Labour dystocia, or the failure of the uterus to contract properly during labour, is a serious problem in obstetrics. A new study from Karolinska Institutet demonstrates a simple method that can make it easier for doctors ...

Baby steps to easing labour pain

December 10, 2014

One in three women experience severe back pain during labour and birth, but that might change thanks to a safe, simple and effective treatment developed by University of Queensland researchers.

Pain relief: Poor evidence for non-drug approaches in labor

March 13, 2012

There is better evidence for the effectiveness of drug-based approaches for relieving labour pains than non-drug approaches. These are the findings of an all-encompassing publishing in The Cochrane Library, which draws together ...

Inhaled pain relief in early labor is safe and effective

September 11, 2012

Inhaled pain relief appears to be effective in reducing pain intensity and in giving pain relief in the first stage of labour, say Cochrane researchers. These conclusions came from a systematic review that drew data from ...

Nose spray offers pain relief in childbirth

January 21, 2016

Pain relief during childbirth may soon be delivered via a self-administered nasal spray, thanks to research from University of South Australia midwifery researcher, Dr Julie Fleet.

Recommended for you

Study shows blood products unaffected by drone trips

December 7, 2016

In what is believed to be the first proof-of-concept study of its kind, Johns Hopkins researchers have determined that large bags of blood products, such as those transfused into patients every day, can maintain temperature ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

tkjtkj
not rated yet Jul 06, 2009
Yes .. my 20 years experience with Labor and Delivery Anesthesia prompts me to suggest that its often the Obstetrician who needs the educating! For example, its still common to find Ob's who believe that Epidural Anesthesia for L&D will prolong labor when, in fact, using modern techniques, the opposite can be true.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.