Your Maternity Journey Vol. 5

Pain Relief: From all-natural to epidural and everything in between

Whether to have pain relief during labor is a very personal decision—and one that women often change their minds about once they are in active labor. Some realize that they would prefer to take the edge off their contractions, while others prefer to experience a natural birth.

It will depend on the length and intensity of your labor, how tired you are, and your tolerance for pain. We are committed to helping you have your baby your way. We offer various labor comfort techniques and we have anesthesiologists available 24/7. If you decide you want pain relief, all you have to do is ask!

We do all we can to keep you comfortable during labor. We have wireless fetal monitors so you can get up and walk around unencumbered (before having an epidural). Each room is equipped with a private spa shower where you can relax during labor. We also offer peanut balls which can help promote labor progress. In addition, many women appreciate a doula’s physical and emotional support. MarinHealth works with several doulas who are familiar with our COVID safety precautions. Ask your OB or midwife for a referral.

Types of Pain Relief Offered at MarinHealth Medical Center

  • TENS Unit
    Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) provides pain relief through low voltage electrical current delivered via a device called a TENS unit. A nurse places electrodes on the surface of your skin, near nerves where the pain is located or at trigger points. Some scientists speculate that the electric current blocks the transmission of pain signals. Others theorize that nerve stimulation raises the level of endorphins, the body’s natural pain-killing chemicals.
  • Nitrous Oxide
    Commonly used by dentists, nitrous oxide, sometimes known as “laughing gas,” can also be effective for labor pains. The gas is mixed with oxygen and delivered through a mask. You hold the mask and start to breathe in the gas mixture about 30 seconds before a contraction begins. That way, you get the greatest amount of relief as the contraction reaches its peak. Some women feel nitrous oxide provides good pain relief. Others describe it as just “taking the edge off.” If you don’t like how nitrous oxide feels or it’s not working for you, other options can still be used.
  • IV Pain Relief
    A narcotic delivered through an IV provides a greater degree of pain relief. Because the narcotic is metabolized quickly, it has minimal effects on your baby. The narcotic lasts for about an hour and makes contractions feel less intense.
  • Epidural
    Women who prefer not to experience pain at all may request an epidural block. This procedure involves injecting anesthetic medication via catheter into a part of the lower back known as the epidural space, allowing for ongoing administration of medication. Depending on the type of anesthetic used, an epidural will take one to fifteen minutes to take effect. You will remain alert and may still feel some pressure and stretching as you deliver.

No matter what kind of pain management you have in your birth plan, a doula can support you and your partner and enhance your birth experience. A doula is with you at every step during your labor and delivery, answering questions and helping you have a more calm and meaningful experience. Learn more by listening to this short podcast featuring experienced doula Mollie Franklin, CD, CLE.


The Right Stuff: Stocking Your Nursery

Every baby—and every baby budget—is different. Some parents are minimalists while others want every new nursey gadget as soon as it comes on the market. If this is your first baby, chances are you could use a little guidance in compiling your shopping list. This list, which is paired down to the essentials, is a good place to start.

The Nursery

  • A new crib that meets the latest safety standards.
  • Bedding should include a crib mattress, two or more fitted crib sheets, two or more cotton receiving blankets, and one to two waterproof mattress protectors.
  • A bassinet or Moses basket so the baby can sleep in your room for the first few months.
  • A rocking chair or glider.
  • A dresser.
  • A changing table. Combination dresser/changing tables are available, some of which have a removable changing table top.
  • A diaper pail.
  • A hamper for all those dirty jammies and onesies.
  • A vaporizer or humidifier for when baby gets congested.
  • A baby monitor if you have a big house.

YOU DON’T NEED: Pillows, sleep positioners, bumper pads, mattress padding, or soft toys in baby’s crib. These items are suffocation risks.

Breastfeeding and Feeding

  • A comfortable, supportive chair and pillow are essential in the early weeks for breastfeeding mothers. Get a small stool to elevate your feet if you cannot easily sit with your feet flat on the floor. Two nursing bras, nursing pads, and several burping cloths will get you off to a good start.
  • If you plan to return to work or are planning occasional separations from baby for more than a couple of hours, you’ll need an electric breast pump. Contact your health insurance to find out which electric pump they cover—they are required to provide one. If breastfeeding is going well, we recommend waiting until baby is 4 to 6 weeks old prior to introducing pumped milk in a bottle, but it’s a good idea to contact your insurance company before you deliver in case you need to pump earlier.
  • Once you are ready to pump and bottle feed, you will need breast milk containers and bottles.
  • A bottle cleaning brush or dishwasher basket and bottle drying rack will help you keep those bottles clean and sanitary.
  • An insulated cooler/carrier will keep formula or breast milk safe during transport.
  • You have plenty of time to shop for solid food basics—at least 4 to 6 months. When the time comes, you will need a high chair, plastic bibs, and baby spoons and bowls.

YOU DON’T NEED: Dry formula dispenser, bottle warmer, or bottle proper.

Baby Health and Hygiene

  • Start with two boxes of newborn diapers. Your baby will outgrow them within a few weeks. Other necessities to have handy include wipes, diaper rash ointment, baby nail scissors, cotton swabs, and cotton balls.
  • A baby tub. Necessary accessories include two hooded towels, washcloths, baby body wash, and baby shampoo.
  • Stock the medicine cabinet with these essentials: petroleum jelly, infant Tylenol, and Pedialyte or a similar electrolyte drink to treat dehydration. Always check with your pediatrician before giving your baby any medication.

YOU DON’T NEED: A wipe warmer, diaper stacker, or a baby-size robe! Bath toys are fun but it will be a while before your wee one is ready to play with them. A bath thermometer is non-essential. Just make sure you set your water heater so it doesn’t go above 125° and use your hand to test the water. You’ll also be sent home from MarinHealth Medical Center with an infant thermometer and bulb nasal aspirator after delivering, so you can skip buying those.

Baby’s Wardrobe

Babies grow incredibly fast. This is a good assortment of basics that will save you from constant laundry:

  • 7 or more snap-crotch bodysuits/onesies
  • 3-4 T-shirts
  • Several snap-up body suits or rompers
  • 7 pairs of pajamas and/or sleeping gowns
  • A sun hat
  • A warm hat for cooler weather
  • A light jacket or cardigan sweater
  • 6 pairs of booties or socks

YOU DON’T NEED: Fancy dress up outfits – but you may not be able to resist and you’ll probably get a few as gifts. Shoes are unnecessary until baby starts to walk.

Getting Around with Baby

A car seat that fits a newborn is essential! In fact, most hospitals (including MarinHealth Medical Center) won’t let you take baby home without one. A stroller that accommodates a newborn and/or a front carrier are great items for taking walks. You’ll also want to pick out a diaper bag to pack with diapers, wipes, and a change of clothes.