What are the options for pain relief during labor and delivery?

The amount of pain felt during labor and delivery is different for every woman. The level of pain depends on many factors, including the size and position of the baby, the woman's level of comfort with the process, and the strength of her contractions.

There are two general ways to relieve pain during labor and delivery: using medications and using "natural" methods (no medications). Some women choose one way or another, while other women rely on a combination of the two.

A woman should discuss the many aspects of labor with her health care provider well before labor begins to ensure that she understands all of the options, risks, and benefits of pain relief during labor and delivery before making a decision. It might also be helpful to put all the decisions in writing to clarify things for all those who might be involved with delivering the baby.

Citations

  1. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2014). FAQ: Medications for pain relief during labor and delivery. Retrieved February 13, 2017, from http://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Medications-for-Pain-Relief-During-Labor-and-Delivery
  2. American College of Nurse-Midwives. (2013). Nitrous oxide for pain relief in labor. Retrieved February 13, 2017, from http://www.midwife.org/acnm/files/ccLibraryFiles/Filename/000000003905/
    Nitrous_oxide_for_pain_relief_pregnancy.pdf
     (PDF – 125 KB)
  3. Schrock, S. D., & Harraway-Smith, C. (2012). Labor analgesia. American Family Physician, 85(5), 447–454. Retrieved February 23, 2017, from http://www.aafp.org/afp/2012/0301/p447.html
  4. Leeman, L., Fontaine, P., King, V., Klein, M. C., & Ratcliffe, S. (2003). The nature and management of labor pain: Part I. Nonpharmacologic pain relief. American Family Physician, 68(6), 1109–1113.
  5. Tournaire, M., & Theau-Yonneau, A. (2007). Complementary and alternative approaches to pain relief during labor. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 4(4), 409–417.
  6. Makvandi, S., Roudsari, R. L., Sadeghi, R., & Karimi, L. (2015). Effect of birth ball on labor pain relief: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology Research, 41(11), 1679–1686
  7. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2017). Approaches to limit intervention during labor and birth. Committee Opinion No. 687. Obstetrics and Gynecology, 129, e20–e28. Retrieved March 20, 2017, from http://www.acog.org/Resources-And-Publications/Committee-Opinions/Committee-on-Obstetric-Practice/Approaches-to-Limit-Intervention-During-Labor-and-Birth
  8. Hodnett, E. D., Gates, S., Hofmeyr, G., & Sakala, C. (2013). Continuous support for women during childbirth. Retrieved March 20, 2017, from http://www.cochrane.org/CD003766/PREG_continuous-support-for-women-during-childbirth

When does labor usually start?

What is induction of labor?

What are the stages of labor?

What are the options for pain relief during labor and delivery?

What is a cesarean delivery, or C-section?

What is vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC)?

What are some common complications during labor and delivery?

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