What is labor pain?

Labor Pain
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Pain relief during childbirth: Overview

You can choose from a few types of pain relief for childbirth. These types include:

  • Medical. Your doctor or midwife may offer different types of pain medicine while you are in labor.
  • Nonmedical. This can include things like breathing techniques and massage.

You also can use more than one of these choices.

Think about what you want during labor. Your personal needs are important when you make this choice. The right choice is the one that feels right to you. Every labor is different. You may go into labor planning to use nonmedical options only and later find that you need pain medicine. For example, you will be given medicines if you need a cesarean (C-section). Plan for what you want. But be aware that things can change during labor.

What medical options can you use for pain relief during childbirth?

Here are some medicines that you may be able to choose for pain control during childbirth.

  • Spinal and epidural pain relief. A doctor injects medicine into a space around the spinal cord. This is called an epidural. A spinal is an injection of medicine into the spinal fluid. It works faster than an epidural. In some cases, a doctor combines a spinal with an epidural.
  • I.V. medicines. These are medicines given through a vein. They don't stop pain completely.
  • Nitrous oxide. You can give yourself nitrous oxide through a mask when you need pain relief.
  • Pudendal block. You get a shot of medicine to numb the area around the vaginal opening.

What are some examples of pain relief options used in childbirth?

You have many choices to help with childbirth pain. There are medical options. And there are lots of nonmedical options too.

Nonmedical options include:

  • Support. Having a doula or support person with you may help you manage your pain better.
  • Breathing techniques. They can help distract you from pain.
  • Imagery. For example, you could imagine your contractions as waves rolling over you.
  • Changing positions. This can help you be more comfortable.
  • Massage.
  • Laboring in water.

For medical options, you have a few choices. They are often based on timing. They include:

  • I.V. medicines.
  • Spinal and epidural pain relief. These can also be used in a cesarean birth (C-section).
  • A pudendal block. It numbs the vagina and perineum during the pushing part of labor.
  • Nitrous oxide. You can give this to yourself by breathing it in through a mouthpiece or mask.

Pain relief during labor: When to call

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You want to learn more about pain relief.

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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.