Pregnancy and Parenting Features

An Overview of Pain Medication for Labor

In Labor!


Most moms, especially first-time moms, are a least a little bit intimidated by the prospect of labor. Specifically, they’re concerned about the pain. This is reasonable; childbirth can indeed be excruciatingly painful.

Yet, pain medication isn’t always the best choice. Sure, the majority of women in the United States choose pain medication for labor, with an epidural being the most common type of pain medication.

Keep in mind, too, that the degree of pain you have during labor can vary from one woman to the next and even from one pregnancy to the next. A painful labor the first time around isn’t a guarantee of a painful labor the next.

Here’s a bird’s eye view of some of the options you’re going to have for pain medication during labor:

  • The epidural. An epidural is used to deliver continual relief of pain to the lower half of your body. It still allows you to be fully conscious and aware of what’s going on. It is delivered via a catheter that’s inserted near the spine. The combination of anesthetic and narcotic means that you can still move your legs but will not sense pain, temperature, or movement.
  • Spinal block. This is different in a couple of ways. A spinal block is injected directly into your spinal fluid, and it’s a one-time injection that lasts only a few hours. A spinal block is typically used if labor is progressing too rapidly to benefit from an epidural, or if you ask for pain relief late in your labor.
  • Systemic painkillers. These are typically narcotics or tranquilizers, or sometimes both. They’re used to relieve anxiety and to help you relax. They’re typically injected via an IV line or in an intramuscular fashion. They can make you sleepy, but you won’t go unconscious.

Really, those are the key categories of pain medications for labor. Many women choose to experience natural childbirth without any of these medications. They may be concerned about the possible harm to their baby from these medications (which is extremely low) or they may simply want to experience childbirth without the fog that can come from medications.

  • Articles Main Page