3 Building Blocks for Your Pain Plan
Some mothers have voiced that one of their greatest concerns is about pain during labor. Though not everyone has this important facet of the labor experience on their radar before it occurs, it is helpful to build a plan for pain in advance.
Start building your plan for pain with these three basics:
Learn the language of pain assessment. Pain experts measure several aspects of pain. The most common elements of pain that are assessed are type, intensity, location and duration.
Type refers to how the pain is described such as stabbing, dull or achy.
Intensity refers to how strongly the pain is felt. The Wong-Baker Universal Pain Scale is widely used by care providers. You have probably already been assessed using this pain scale. It works like this. Your care provider will ask you to rate your pain on a scale of 1 to 10 with one being no pain and 10 being the worst pain of your life.
Location refers to where on the body the pain is located. The more specific you can be the better information your provider will have to assess your pain. An example of a specific location would include descriptive words like “deep upper right” or “on the surface lower left”.
Duration refers to how long the pain last once it starts. Pain can come and go with pain free time, be constant or something in-between.
Communication in medical situations can be tricky in the best of circumstances. Describing your pain using the common pain elements will help you communicate effectively and increase your confidence that your providers truly understand your pain. It will also help your provider treat your level of pain appropriately. Share the pain assessment elements with your labor supporters so they will also be able to communicate your condition accurately.
Learn about all of the available pain management options. You may already have a strong opinion about a specific form of pain management but because of the uncertainties of labor your situation could change so much that the plan you create is no longer safe or feasible. It is in those situations that expectant mothers can feel a lack of control. Knowledge and preparation, even for the unexpected, can help expectant mothers remain in control.
Our upcoming series on pain management will review the following forms of medical pain management in detail:
Analgesics that relieve pain
Anesthetics that block feeling and thereby pain
Breathing techniques to manage pain
Inhalation anesthetics for disassociation from pain
Consider each option carefully and discuss it with your care provider before you are in labor so while a change to your plan might be unexpected, you won’t be unprepared.
Decide on your ultimate goal. This part of the pain plan seems obvious but it is most important to articulate your goals. Is your ultimate goal a safe labor and delivery for you and your baby? Is the goal your version of the “ultimate labor experience”? Is your goal related to someone else’s expectation for you? Is your goal to change the way you see yourself?
Think about what your goals really are and prioritize them.
Next ask yourself, “What role could pain play in reaching my goal?” “Does pain help or hinder me from reaching my ultimate goal?”
Lastly ask yourself, “If ______ is my ultimate goal, what decisions should I make regarding pain to reach my goal?”
In most cases, pain is one of the elements of labor that you can control. Since it is also the one that creates a lot of concern, all aspects of pain management should be carefully considered.
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