Pain Medications for Labor


There are several options for pain medications for labor

Every pregnancy is a unique experience, and no one else can tell you how you “should” give birth. If you are worried about pain, rest assured that relief during labor and delivery is available. Our Grapevine and Alliance obgyns are happy to discuss pain medications for labor.

Systemic analgesics are one category of pain medications for labor

Systemic analgesics are usually injected into a patient’s IV during the early hours of labor. This creates a perception that pain has decreased throughout the entire body. It can also provide women with some much-needed rest, particularly during a long labor. The cons of systemic analgesics are nausea, drowsiness and the potential to affect the baby’s respiration and heart rate.

Regional analgesia and anesthesia

The most popular types of pain medications for labor are regional analgesia and anesthesia.

  • Epidural block. During an epidural block, the anesthesiologist numbs the back before injecting medication into the epidural space in the spinal cord. During an epidural, you still have the ability to participate in labor by bearing down and pushing, and you remain alert. Pain relief begins about 10 to 20 minutes after the epidural block is administered. For C sections, the anesthetic dosage is increased.
  • Spinal block. The spinal block and the epidural block are labor and delivery pain relief options commonly used for C sections. The anesthesiologist provides localized numbing and then injects an anesthetic directly into the spinal fluid to numb the lower body.

The “walking epidural” is a combination of an epidural and a spinal that has the benefits of both of these labor and delivery pain relief methods.

Epidural and spinal blocks have some risks.

  • Potential decrease in blood pressure
  • Severe headaches when you are sitting upright
  • Difficulty breathing (in the rare event that the medication is injected in a way that affects your chest wall and breathing muscles)
  • Low-grade fever
  • Back pain at the sight of the injection after surgery

Local anesthesia may be used during a vaginal birth

If you need an episiotomy or experience vaginal tears that need to be repaired, local anesthesia is injected directly into the vaginal or perineal tissue. This is the most fast-acting type of the pain medications for labor.

There are pros and cons for every pain relief option. Our Grapevine and Alliance obgyns are happy to discuss these with you in further detail. Sometimes, the circumstances will dictate the choice; in other cases, it’s the mother’s personal decision. To learn more about pain medications for labor and delivery, contact us.