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National Midwifery Week: A peek at the many remedies for labor pain

In Brief

  • National Midwifery Week will be observed October 6-12, 2013.  Also, this year, Crozer-Keystone Health System marks 15 years in partnership with the Midwives of Delaware County.
  • Each month, about 30 to 35 babies are delivered at Delaware County Memorial Hospital with support from the Midwives of Delaware County.
  • Through its midwifery services, DCMH offers expectant moms many options to deal with pain, including natural methods, like Jacuzzis, and medical remedies, such as epidural anesthesia.  Ongoing support is provided throughout the entire process to ensure that expectant moms have a safe and comfortable birthing experience that is individualized for them.
  • As a longtime partner with the Midwives of Delaware County, Crozer-Keystone welcomes about 30 to 35 babies into the world each month in the maternity center at Delaware County Memorial Hospital (see accompanying article). Crozer-Keystone also supports other midwives in the community by providing comprehensive and compassionate care through DCMH when a hospital setting is required.

Finding individualized relief

A big part of the midwifery care that is provided at DCMH involves ensuring a completely individualized birthing experience, and that includes providing expectant moms with different options to deal with labor pain.
Many women who come to DCMH for midwifery care worry that their options may be limited, but that is not the case, notes Becca Choitz,

Becca Choitz, C.N.M.

Becca Choitz, C.N.M.

C.N.M., director of Midwifery Services for Crozer-Keystone Health System. DCMH provides many natural remedies for managing pain, as well as pharmacologic relief, such as epidural anesthesia, when it is requested or needed.

Sometimes, expectant moms know right away that they want to experience a natural birth, without medication and without any limitations on their ability to get up or move around. Other times, moms may want to consider all of their options, or perhaps try a combination of different things.

Among the natural methods used at DCMH are:

  • Shower – Standing in warm water helps some moms to relax and feel more comfortable during labor.
  • Massage – This may help expectant moms relax and stimulate the release of endorphins, which help people to feel better naturally.
  • Special equipment, such as a birthing ball (like an exercise ball), and a newer innovation called a “peanut ball” (which is shaped like peanut) – Sitting or rocking on these may help women get into more comfortable positions during labor.
  • Relaxation in one of the hospital’s two Jacuzzi tubs, which are located within close walking distance of every labor room.

Soaking the stress away

Having the Jacuzzi option as a way for moms to cope with pain was something that the Midwives of Delaware County felt was important, and it has proven to be very helpful for some moms, Choitz notes.
As with any remedy, the choice to use a Jacuzzi is totally personal. Leaning back in the water can “make it easier to relax,” Choitz says. “When you don’t resist, it can make the pain more tolerable.”

The Jacuzzis at DCMH are housed in a restful, quiet room of the hospital, with a chair where a support person can sit, if desired.  Expectant moms who choose to use a Jacuzzi are monitored every 15 minutes to ensure that the baby is doing well. They then return to their birthing room before the baby’s arrival, where they can be more optimally positioned for support from the midwife and nurses.

Overcoming the fear of labor

Even before women make the decision to try a Jacuzzi or some other remedy for relief, there’s an important obstacle to overcome in order to prepare for labor pain, and that is addressing the fear that many expectant moms have about childbirth, says Julie Cristol, clinical director of the Birth Center in Bryn Mawr, which is supported by DCMH when a hospital birth is needed.

“A big part of decreasing pain in labor comes from trusting your provider and feeling supported,” midwife Cristol says.  Developing these feelings of trust, and helping to ensure that moms are ready when the big day comes, happen long before the first contractions through open discussions between mom and midwife about the kind of birthing experience the expectant mom would like to have, Cristol notes. For example, what can moms expect labor to be like? What different methods can be used to relieve pain? And what are the pros and cons of each?

Expecting Moms have choices

Through its midwifery services, DCMH offers expectant moms many ways to deal with labor pain, including the natural methods discussed in this article, as well as medical remedies like epidural anesthesia.  The focus is on providing a supportive environment where women are empowered to have a safe and comfortable birthing experience that is individualized for them.

Compassionate support

Whatever individual preferences expectant moms may have – and whatever pain relief remedies they may seek during labor – one key component of midwifery remains constant: That is the focus on compassionate, steady support throughout the entire process to promote a comfortable and safe delivery for both mom and baby.

For more information about Crozer-Keystone’s maternity services, or to request an appointment with a physician or midwife, call 1-800-CK-HEALTH (1-800-254-3258) or visit www.crozerkeystone.org.

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