Just Say No - to Pain; Women's Health; Scientific American Presents; by Grady; 1 Page(s)
When it comes to pain medication, women in labor are tough customers. They want to remain awake, alert and in control but free of pain-without side effects that might harm them or their babies.
A decade ago that wish list could not be fulfilled. Anything that gave the mother some relief, it seemed, threatened the baby or slowed labor, increasing the chances of a cesarean section. For instance, narcotics, such as a shot of Demerol, would ease a mother's pain but could interfere with the baby's breathing. Similarly, spinals and epidurals-in which physicians inject painkillers into the sac surrounding the spinal cord or into the epidural space just outside it-would numb the spinal nerves that transmit the pain of uterine contractions but could also make it hard to push. Indeed, women would often be too weak to get out of bed during labor. And spinals could also leave the mother with a ferocious headache caused by the leakage of spinal fluid from the needle puncture.