Pain Relief During Labor and Delivery

All women are different when it comes to having pain. The amount of pain that a woman experiences during labor and delivery depends on their pain tolerance, contraction strength and the baby's size and the position.

There are many ways to prepare and deal with the pain. These ways include:

  • Taking prenatal classes to learn about labor and delivery. The more informed you are, the less anxious and afraid you may be, which can help lessen the pain.

  • Taking medication or anesthetics during labor and delivery.

  • Women preferring natural childbirth learn breathing and relaxation techniques and how to relax between contractions to control their pain. They may take a shower or bath, have their partner massage or place an ice pack on their back, or may just want to change positions during labor.


  • Medications may be given by injection into the muscles or vein (intravenously) to ease the pain. These medications can be given along with another medication (barbiturates) to relax you. These medications keep you awake. There can be minor side effects such as nausea, trouble concentrating, becoming sleepy and lowering the heart rate of the baby. However, the dose given will not seriously affect the baby.

  • Paracervical block is given during labor by injecting numbing medication into the right and left sides of the cervix and vagina. This is found to relieve most of the labor pains. It may have to be given more than once.

  • A local anesthetic may be injected under the skin, on the outside of the vagina, in the perineal area to perform a small cut (episiotomy). This cut is done to prevent tearing of the vagina at the time of delivery.

  • Pudendal anesthesia is an injection given deep through the perineum into the area to the pudendal nerves. This numbs the outside of the vagina and perineum at the time of delivery.

  • Epidural anesthesia is an injection of numbing medication into the area of the lower back and spinal column. This anesthetic is injected on the outside covering of the spinal cord. An epidural numbs the lower part of the body. It can be given continuously in small doses through a tube for prolonged anesthesia. It can also be used to do a Cesarean section. You are able to move your legs, but not allowed to walk. Epidural is a very common and popular form of anesthesia during labor and delivery. It should only be given by a trained and experienced anesthesiologist or anesthetist. Side effects may occur, such as:

  • Headache.

  • Drop in blood pressure.

  • Backache.

  • Dizziness.

  • Difficulty breathing if it affects your chest muscles.

  • Shivering.

  • Slowing down the contractions.

  • Require forceps or vacuum extraction delivery.

  • Higher incidence of Cesarean Section.

  • Rarely it can cause a convulsion.

  • Spinal block anesthesia is an injection of numbing medication into the lower back and spinal column area. However, this anesthetic is injected on the inside of the covering of the spinal cord. Spinal block anesthesia is only given once. Therefore, it is best to be given just before delivering the baby. It can also be used for Cesarean sections. The side effects are the same as the epidural side effects. It should only be given by a trained anesthesiologist or anesthetist.

Whether a person takes medication or not during labor and delivery will depend on the needs of each individual and situation. Do not be afraid to ask for pain medication if you need it. There is no reason to be ashamed, embarrassed or feel that you failed yourself if you take medication. You should discuss how you and your caregiver plan to control your pain during your prenatal visits. It may also be a good idea to talk to an anesthesiologist before your due date.