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How Will You Handle Your Labor Pain?

If you’re concerned about the pain that may come with labor and delivery, you’re not alone. You’ve probably heard equally as many “hospital horror stories” as “easier than expected” ones. In truth, women experience and tolerate pain differently. For some pregnant women, focused breathing is all they need to get through labor and childbirth; others need the relief that painkillers can provide.

There are a number of different medications a woman can take during labor and childbirth. It is important to discuss them with your health care provider before your "birth day." 

Keep in mind that your pain relief choices may be governed by certain circumstances of your labor and delivery. Throughout your labor, your health care provider will assess your progress and how you are feeling in order to help you choose a pain relief technique.

Getting pain relief should not cause you to feel inadequate. You are the only one who knows how you feel, so decisions regarding control of your labor pain must be made specifically by you. Also, don't worry about the safety of the medicine. All medications provided during childbirth are considered safe for both you and your baby.

What Pain Relief Medications Are Available for Labor and Childbirth?

There are three main ways to provide pain relief during labor and childbirth:

  • Local anesthesia may be used by your health care provider during delivery to numb a painful area in or around the vagina if stitches are needed. Local medications do not reduce discomfort during labor.
  • Regional anesthesia (also called an epidural or spinal anesthesia) is administered by an anesthesiologist (a doctor who delivers pain medicine) during labor to reduce discomfort. In both epidural and spinal anesthesia, medications are placed near the nerves in your lower back to "block" pain in a wide region of your body while you stay awake. Regional anesthesia greatly reduces pain throughout the birthing process. It can also be used if a cesarean birth becomes necessary.
  • General anesthesia puts you to sleep during the birthing process. While safe, general anesthesia is rarely used and only during emergencies because it prevents you from seeing your child immediately after birth.

Pain relieving medications can be injected into a vein or a muscle to dull labor discomfort. These medications do not completely stop pain, but they do lessen it. Because they affect your entire body and may make both you and your baby sleepy, these drugs are mainly used during early labor to help you rest and conserve your energy.

What Is the Difference Between an Epidural and Spinal Anesthesia?

With a spinal, the medication is injected inside the dura, the tough coating surrounding the brain and spinal cord. During an epidural, medication is put inside the spinal column just outside the sac that surrounds the spinal cord.

A spinal requires less medicine and works faster than an epidural. But it is more likely to cause a headache or low blood pressure.

WebMD Medical Reference

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