Labour can be one of the most daunting parts of having a child and even with a detailed birth plan, it can be hard to prepare for what’s ahead. But, if you had the choice, what would you opt for?
A study, led by Dr Brendan Carvalho from the Stanford University School of Medicine in California, questioned 40 expectant mothers whether they’d prefer a longer labour with relatively less pain, or a shorter labour with excruciating pain.
The majority of expecting mothers answered that they’d rather endure a longer labour with less pain, according to the findings published in the British Journal of Anaesthesia.
Carvalho said: ‘Interestingly, intensity is the driver.
‘Using an epidural may prolong labour but reduces pain intensity, and it seems that could be preferable to most,’ he said.
The women taking part in the study were given a seven-item questionnaire as they arrived at hospital to have labour induced but before painful contractions began. A sample question asked: ‘Would you rather have pain intensity at two out of 10 for nine hours or six out of 10 for three hours?’
The women took the survey a second time within 24 hours of giving birth. The survey pitted hypothetical pain level, on a scale of zero to 10, against hours of labour.
Both pre and post-labour, women taking part on average preferred less intense pain over a longer duration, according to the findings.
Dr Carvalho said: ‘Labour’s got a lot of factors to it, it’s difficult to capture in one score.’
‘The one good thing that does happen in labor is we use patient controlled analgesia.
‘Women control how much medication they get, which is better than getting prescribed a set dose from start to finish.
‘More medication makes legs heavy, may make labour longer and will more likely involve forceps or vacuum (to help deliver the baby), and less medication means more intense pain and also the ability to be more active.’
‘Women would benefit from more conversation about this,’ he added.
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