What is labor and delivery pain management options?

Labor and Delivery Pain Management Options
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What are some examples of pain relief options used in childbirth?

You have many choices to relieve pain during childbirth. These include medical and nonmedical options. You may use more than one of these choices.


Nonmedical options may help reduce pain and help you feel a sense of control during labor. These techniques include:

  • Support. Having a support person with you through childbirth may help you manage your pain better. This person could be your partner, a loved one, or a friend. Or you may use an experienced birth assistant, like a doula, whose only job is to give you constant support.
  • Distraction. During early labor, you can walk, play cards, watch TV, take a shower, or listen to music to help take your mind off your contractions.
  • Massage. Massage of the shoulders and lower back during contractions may help ease your pain.
  • Changing positions during labor. Walking, kneeling, or sitting on a big rubber ball (birth ball) are good options. The position that feels best may change as you move through labor.
  • Focused breathing techniques. Breathing in a rhythm can distract you from pain and relax your muscles and your mind. Childbirth education classes can teach you different methods of focused breathing.
  • Imagery. This involves using your imagination to decrease your pain. For instance, you could imagine your contractions as waves rolling over you. Picture a peaceful place, such as a beach or a mountain stream, to help you relax between contractions.
  • Laboring in water. Some hospitals and birthing centers offer tubs or whirlpools for labor. Soaking in warm water may help ease the stress of labor.

Other techniques that don't use medicine to control pain include hypnosis and acupuncture.


Your options for pain relief with medicine may include:

  • I.V. medicines. Examples include fentanyl and hydroxyzine. These medicines are used to help reduce anxiety and partially relieve pain. But they aren't usually used when you are close to delivery, because they can affect a newborn's breathing.
  • Spinal and epidural pain relief. This is a shot (spinal) or an ongoing supply (epidural) of pain medicine near the spinal cord. It partially or fully numbs the belly and lower body.
  • Pudendal block. This is a shot of pain medicine to numb the vagina and perineum. It can help relieve pain from the second (pushing) stage of labor. It works quickly and usually doesn't affect the baby.
  • Nitrous oxide. You can give yourself nitrous oxide through a mouthpiece or mask when you need pain relief during labor. You can decide when to use it.

What are the risks of pain relief options used in childbirth?

Pain relief options for childbirth are very safe. But some have risks. Talk to your doctor or midwife about which treatments you plan to use. And ask them about any risks for those options.

What are pain relief options for childbirth?

Your pain relief choices for childbirth may include medical and nonmedical treatments. Medical choices can include I.V. medicines or epidural pain relief. Massage and focused breathing are some of the nonmedical options. Sometimes both kinds of pain relief are used. Knowing your options can help you prepare for childbirth.

What should you tell your doctor about your pain relief plans for childbirth?

Tell your doctor or midwife about your medical history. Let them know if you or a family member has had problems with anesthesia in the past. You can also talk to them about your plans for medical or nonmedical pain relief during childbirth. Depending on your health conditions, they may recommend certain options.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.