What to Expect - Labor and Delivery

Medical Pain Relief

While you're in labor, you will have the option for pain relief. There are many different kinds of pain relief available, but not all options are available at every hospital and birthing center. Your health history and any problems with your pregnancy will make some options better than others.

Types of pain relief used for labor and delivery include:

Intravenous or Intramuscular Analgesic

A doctor gives you the pain medicine through a tube inserted in a vein or by injecting the medicine into a muscle. These medicines go into your blood. This type of pain relief does not get rid of all the pain but it usually makes the pain bearable. After getting this kind of pain relief, you can still get an epidural later on. Some disadvantages of getting intravenous or intramuscular analgesics are that they make you feel sleepy and drowsy and can cause nausea and vomiting. They can also make you feel itchy. Another issue is that the medicines cross into the baby's bloodstream. They can affect the baby's breathing, heart rate and cause him/her to be very sleepy for a while after birth.

Epidural Anesthesia

A doctor injects medicine into the lower part of your spine. The medicine blocks pain in the area of the body below the shot. Epidurals allow most women to be awake and alert with very little pain. Medicines used in epidurals include novocaine-like drugs that block the pain in that area combined with opiods like fentanyl. Some disadvantages of getting an epidural include shiveingr uncontrollably and they can lower your blood pressure. It can also make you feel very itchy. An epidural can cause headaches. An epidural also may not numb the entire painful area, which means women continue to feel pain in some parts of the abdomen and back.

Spinal Anesthesia

A doctor injects a medicine into the lower part of your backbone. This medicine numbs the entire body below where the medicine was injected. Spinal anesthesia gives immediate pain relief so it is often used for women who need an emergency Cesarean section. Spinal anesthesia uses numbing medicines similar to novocaine combined with opiods like fentanyl. Some disadvantages of spinal anesthesia are that it numbs the body from the chest down to the feet. It makes you feel short of breath and can lower your blood pressure.


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