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National Childbirth Survey

More Things to Know

4. There's more to know about pain relief than you think.

Most moms actually went for the meds, with a huge 80 percent of all women (and 90 percent of first-time moms) opting for pain medication. Of the drug free minority, over 60 percent favored using breathing techniques or postion changes to work through their pain. Yet neither of these methods was considered "very helpful" by the majority of these women. In fact, almost a third rated the breathing techniques as "not very helpful" or "not helpful at all."

Conversely, one of the least prevalent drug-free methods -- immersion in a tub or pool -- garnered relatively high marks for pain relief. While only 6 percent of women used a tub (possibly becase this option isn't widely available) 49 percent of them found it "very helpful" in dulling the pain.

As for women receiving medication, over 60 percent went with an epidural analgesic. This isn't surprising, considering that over 50 percent of the moms surveyed said that even before they went into labor, they believed epidurals provided the most effective pain relief. When asked specific questions about their epidurals, however, many women didn't have all the facts. For example, a large number (43 percent) didn't know what type of epidural they had received -- a "light" or "walking" epidural that leaves some sensation below the waist, or a stronger spinal block. One-fourth of the moms couldn't name possible interventions that follow epidural use, such as an increased use of Pitocin and bladder catheterization. Although epidurals generally are safe and effective for most women, it wouldn't hurt (pun intended) to ask your caregiver about the full range of pain relief options and their effects.