Facilitate endorphin production: During periods of intense physical demand and stress, the body produces natural pain killers called “endorphins.” In a case of “no pain, no gain,” endorphins are also responsible for the exhilaration and joy that can follow such periods (6).
Enable you to postpone the use of pain medication: Medications are more likely to cause problems with repeated doses, when different types of drugs are mixed, and with prolonged use. By using comfort measures, you may need only one dose of a narcotic instead of three, you may avoid using both a narcotic and an epidural, or you may delay having an epidural.
Can instantly be stopped if it doesn’t help or in the unlikely event that it causes trouble: So, for example, if the baby doesn’t like you to be in some particular position, you can simply find another one. Pain medications, once administered, cannot be rescinded, and you may need another drug or procedure to remedy the ill effects. These, in turn, introduce their own risks.
What are the potential drawbacks?
Comfort measures may not provide adequate pain relief. This can lead to a feeling of personal failure if you wanted an unmedicated birth. Still, this will rarely be the case where caregivers and loved ones respect and support your desire to avoid pain medication, acknowledge your efforts to do so, and validate your disappointment at not achieving that goal.
How might comfort measures affect your birth experience and postpartum recovery?
As with any experience that pushes you to your limits, an unmedicated labor can be a transformational event that changes how you think of yourself forever. Your pride in your achievement, the confidence in your strength and capabilities that you can gain are, perhaps, the ideal preparation for meeting the challenges of parenting. Avoiding or delaying the use of pain medication also gives you your best chance of having a complication-free labor and a healthy baby, which may mean an easier postpartum recovery.