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.


  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 external link
  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/
    external link(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 external link
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