Childbirth is a unique experience, but is always accompanied by pain. Contractions exert pressure on the body in varying degrees, dependent on the course of the birth and also on individual sensitivity to pain.
There are various ways in which excessive pain can be alleviated. A medicinal painkiller can often be of help in the case of excessive cramping. Another option is peridural anaesthesia (PDA). The use of additional aids, such as oils, Bach flowers, acupuncture and homeopathy can alleviate tension in a natural way. Some methods can already be employed at a very early stage of contractions, while others can only be used when it is clear that contractions have begun in earnest.
In addition, a sound breathing technique, movement, massage or a bath can help you to relax and can alleviate labour pains. Such exercises can generally be learned in birth preparation courses.
Under normal circumstances, you are free to decide in which way you would like to handle the pain you feel. Anaesthetists and midwives will offer you support and advice so that you can determine the best method for your situation.
Although unexpected complications may arise during the birth, these can normally be resolved with the expert support available to you. The option of a Caesarean section is always available in an emergency, in order to protect the health of both mother and child.
If the uterine contractions are too weak or infrequent, or if they cease altogether, this is referred to as contraction weakness. In this case, childbirth may be assisted by means of medication (hormones), rupturing the amniotic sac, with a suction bell or by using obstetric forceps.
Strong bleeding (haemorrhaging during childbirth) may occur if the placenta is expelled prematurely or is lodged in front of the uterine orifice. Under these circumstances, medical support, and in some cases even a blood transfusion, is required. In most cases, a Caesarean section cannot be avoided as the supply of oxygen to the baby is insufficient.
If the unborn child does not receive sufficient levels of oxygen before or during the birth, this can result in what is known as anoxia. Anoxia may occur if the function of the placenta is inadequate or has ceased, or when the umbilical cord has become caught. A lack of oxygen supply to the foetus can result in brain damage, polio or even death. The unborn child’s status is thus intensively monitored during birth via a cardiotocogram (CTG, monitor of cardiac frequency).
Two percent of all births occur in the transverse or breech position, where the baby is sitting in an almost cross-legged position on the neck of the uterus. The breech position can usually be identified before birth and generally requires a Caesarean section. This is because of the risk of harm to the baby involved in a vaginal breech birth. For this reason, the birth team should always be prepared to perform an emergency Caesarean section.
If, in the post-natal phase, the placenta is not (completely) expelled from the uterus, the placenta must be manually dislodged and removed from the womb to avoid grave risk of haemorrhaging.
In the case of high-risk pregnancy, the birth is generally induced between the 38th and 40th week of pregnancy, because from that point on a continued pregnancy is no longer of benefit to the unborn child.