This writeup is a response to those who have been asking me questions about pain relief in labour, and epidural analgesia in particular.

Most women choose NOT to have any intervention during labour. And that’s fine. Others opt for natural means of pain relief – such as breathing exercises, water pool, exercise balls, acupuncture, etc. And that’s fine, too. What is most important is for women to feel empowered and supported throughout the birthing process.

There is another article I wrote on types of pain relief in labour. Please read it here..

Let me tell you my story… My first birth experience was quite stressful and traumatic. Being a fresh doctor as well as a first time mom, I was aware of what to expect, but what I experienced was a different ball game.

Out of anxiety, I got to the hospital a little too early, so I was admitted for 24 hours only for “observation”. I received some sedatives and I slept until the following morning. During the morning ward rounds, the doctor on duty examined me and found that I was in early labour, so she decided to shift me to the labour room. The progress was rather slow and tiring, my water was already draining, so there was no going back; I had to deliver within the next 24hours . A senior doctor came later that day and advised that I should be “augmented” which means that a certain drug (oxytocin) will be added into the infusion to make my uterus contract more frequently and effectively.

SubhaanaLlaah! The pain increased exponentially. Mothers who have been augmented with oxytocin can relate. I asked for a stronger painkiller, but I was discouraged from taking any opioid as it could make my baby floppy at birth. Unfortunately, the specialist in charge of giving epidurals was not available that day. So, I was given only “pẹlẹ pẹlẹ” analgesia which didn’t work for me. Long story short, I endured the excruciating pain until midnight (second night in the hospital) when I had become physically and mentally exhausted. I removed the oxytocin infusion angrily and requested for CS. I had no more energy to continue bearing the pain, let alone pushing the baby when it is time to do so…

After vaginal delivery, a woman can get on her feet and start moving around after a few minutes. But for CS, one must remain in bed for much longer. The post-operation pain might feel like a continuation of labour pain itself, if analgesia is not given adequately… So, I vowed that if I should get pregnant again by Allaah’s will, I will insist on effective pain relief. I also prayed that there should be no other reason for me to go for CS ever again! AlhamduliLlaah, my subsequent deliveries were vaginal and yes, I got what I wanted in terms of pain relief.

For my last baby, I received epidural maa shaa Allaah! Imagine being able to take regular naps during labour! For me, the only downside was the inability to walk around and being tied down to the electronic fetal monitor. Other than that, epidural is bae!

Women should be encouraged to make reasonable informed decisions about their bodies. We should stop shaming women who choose the easier options. We have been created differently and we have different pain thresholds. Even if epidural is not readily available and affordable, there are always other options. Having analgesia in labour is every woman’s right and this does not make her less of a woman.

When Maryam bint Imrān, the mother of Jesus (peace be upon them both) was in labour, she felt a great deal of pain, to the extent that she cried out, “I wish I had died before this, and been completely forgotten“. Then an angel was sent to her, who told her to shake a palm tree, eat from its fruits, and drink from the stream nearby (Qur’an chapter 19 verse 23 – 26). This shows that labour pain is real, and every labouring woman deserves some form of pain relief – natural or medical.




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