Friday, March 22, 2013

Giving birth in Sweden: Pain management at my Swedish hospital Part I

So I blogged before about how it takes some work to get an epidural at my local hospital in Sweden (and some readers let me know it was the opposite at their hospital – so this doesn’t seem to be standard Swedish). And so I thought I would post about what types of pain management by hospital readily offers and has offered me.

I consider most of these to be in the ‘natural birth’ category, but perhaps my ‘laughing gas’ fog means I did not have a ‘med-free’ birth. I don’t know. I don’t care. Laughing gas made me crack up during the tough times. And was totally useless in the end anyway.

A candlelit bath with lavender essential oils – So this is where I started out with both of my births, and I LOVE it. You get in a giant bath tub, the lights are low, it feels like a romantic movie, but your innards also feel like they are about to explode, so it is not so romantic. Nurses bring you cups of ‘fruit soup’ (which tastes remarkably like juice) and occasionally put some contraption in your stomach to find your baby’s heart rate. Your significant other can spray down your stomach with hot water during contractions using the showerhead. This pain management technique gets 3/5 stars from me. Only 3 because you can do it at home (but it was not half as relaxing in our tiny bathtub where I felt like I might not be able to get up again from weeks 38 and on of pregnancy). And also because last time I almost passed out when getting out of the bathtub and felt like crap. But it was nice while it lasted.

Wheat pillows heated in the microwave – I loved these suckers during my first labor. They are just regular wheat pillows you warm in the microwave and then cover your stomach and back with until you are almost too numb to feel anything. I was afraid I might cook the baby, but then I was so uncomfortable I forgot to care. With my second I requested one and it felt like putting a band-aid on a hatchet wound. I did like it a lot for my afterpains though, although I had to bring one from home, and beg the nurse to tell me where the staff microwave was in the patient hotel because as she said “I just can’t figure out those darn wheat pillows” (Except she said it in Swedish in an equally annoying way…). I give wheat pillows 2/5 stars because they get cold quickly and end up being a bit of a hassle with the nurses.

TENS – You know those electrical shock belts they advertise on the TV to help you lose weight while you are sitting on the sofa eating bonbons and watching soap operas? That is what TENS is. Basically you give your self electrical shocks to trigger your body to not react so much to other kinds of pain because you are reacting to this pain instead. It sounds insane. You are even supposed to practice shocking yourself before labor. I actually ended up using this with my first and loving it. I think it was a placebo effect. I could relax a lot more when I was focused on when to give my self shocks than when I was just doing nothing but waiting for the next contraction. I had told the Swede that I wanted to use TENS again this time around, but we never had time for that. I give TENS 4/5 stars only because it sounds absurd and I don’t think anyone would use it if they weren’t desparate.

Laughing gas – Ohh laughing gas. How I love and hate you. The idea of putting a tiny little mask over my mouth and nose while in labor freaks my inner claustrophobe out do no end. I wait until the midwife is begging me to put the damn mask on before I give in. I hate that part. But then, the giggles. And the fact that, like TENS, it gives you something to focus your energy on. Laughing gas makes me think I am hysterical. It makes me crack up. And it makes me think that maybe just maybe this damn contraction is worth getting through so that things will be so hilarious afterwards. But in reality, laughing gas does nothing. And when you hit transition, it will be nothing but a tease. I give laughing gas 3/5 stars for getting you over the hump of “How long is this going to take” to “Oh crap what the hell is happening to my body” but then being totally useless.

To be continued ……..


  1. The amount of laughter this post provided me probably borders on the creepy. Excellent!

  2. in my opinion laughing gas during labour isn't the best form of labour pain relief.