Pain Management During Childbirth: What Are Your Options?

Both drugs and natural methods can help reduce or eliminate pain.

Most mothers agree that seeing their newborn baby was one of the greatest experiences of their lives. Childbirth can also be a painful experience—but it doesn’t have to be.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) affirms that all women should have access to pain management during childbirth, unless specific medical conditions make this risky. The ACOG also recommends neuraxial analgesics as the best medications for the job. That’s the clinical name for painkillers that don’t inhibit muscle function and are administered near the central nervous system.

Here's more on those pain relievers.

Epidural analgesia (epidural block)

  • given by injection in lower spine
  • reduces pain in lower part of body
  • medicine can be continuously fed into the body through a catheter.

Spinal block

  • given by injection below the spinal cord
  • uses smaller amounts of medication
  • immediate pain relief that lasts 1-2 hours
  • usually administered only once during labor.

Combined spinal-epidural block

  • immediate pain relief from the spinal block
  • ability to give more pain medication during labor.

In some cases, a woman might receive local anesthesia, which stops all sensations in a specific area, or general anesthesia, which sedates her completely. General anesthesia is typically used during unexpected cesarean section.

Some moms-to-be prefer to go without drugs during childbirth, but they still want some pain relief while in labor. The March of Dimes outlines some of the natural techniques available.

  • Progressive relaxation – tightening then relaxing groups of muscles throughout the body.
  • Massage – done by yourself or a partner.
  • Breathing techniques – rhythmic breathing that can take attention away from the pain.
  • Heat treatment – heating pads or hot towels can reduce tension in specific locations.

The best way for expectant mothers to learn about pain management during labor and childbirth is to take a class. The Maternity Services at Woman’s Hospital offers a four-week Preparation for Childbirth class that addresses that topic and many others. The goal of our maternity classes is to teach you how to make your pregnancy as safe and easy as possible. Pre-registration for all classes is required and can be made by calling 1-877-907-7642.

Related Posts:

What You Can Learn in a Childbirth Class

Ready for a Baby? How to Prepare for Pregnancy

Staying Healthy During Pregnancy

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