Pregnancy Pain Relief Options available during Labor and Delivery

It’s about to be a birthday party! For months you’ve lovingly carried your precious little miracle inside of your womb, but your body is saying that it’s time to evict the tiny tenant, and it’s quite a painful eviction procedure indeed! Pain is a natural, normal part of the birthing process, but you don’t have to be a superhero and withstand it. Let’s look at your pain relief options during labor and delivery. Please be advised that your physician will be able to tell you what’s best depending on your medical history, current medical conditions, and type of delivery you will be having.

Pain Relief for Labor and Vaginal Delivery


This has become the most popular form of pain relief requested by women in labor. After the anesthesiologist washes your lower back with a cleansing solution, he/she will inject a local numbing medication into the cleansed area. Next, a hollow needle will be placed into your back which allows a small catheter to be guided into the fluid filled epidural space. The needle will be removed and the catheter will be securely be taped to your back for the duration of your labor and delivery.

A continuous flow of numbing medication will be administered through the catheter that will numb your abdominal region. You may feel nauseated, lightheaded, shaky, cold, or vomit with this pain relief method. There is also a small chance of paralysis. Sometimes you may feel numb or tingly on one side or the other, and there’s the chance you may feel no relief at all. If you feel no relief, the anesthesiologist may need to repeat the procedure. You will also need a Foley catheter placed inside your bladder to relieve the need to urinate. This method will require you to remain in bed and have an I.V.

 Bradley Method

This option for pain relief is centered upon going all natural. You will need to attend classes taught by Bradley Method instructors during your pregnancy. You will learn relaxation techniques, such as tuning in to your inner-self, deep breathing, proper diet, and how to trust your own body to deal with the pain. This method is great for those with a birthing coach or doula as they play an active role in aiding you through the process. Your birthing coach/partner should attend the classes with you if possible.

Analgesic Medications

These are medications you can receive via injection or your I.V. Medicines such as Phenegran and/or Demerol are widely used for pain relief. These medications are pretty popular for moms that are reluctant to having an epidural, but they carry some side-effects that may be unpleasant. Some side-effects you may experience are: nausea, sleepiness, dizziness, and vomiting. If analgesic medication(s) are given too close to the time of delivery, your baby may be groggy and less attentive.

Pudendal Block

This is a medication injected in the perineum and vaginal opening at delivery time. Though it will not provide pain relief from the contractions you are having, it will relieve the pain of feeling your newborn pass through the birth canal and vaginal opening. This injection is used if an episiotomy becomes necessary as well. Some physicians administer this medication as their standard means of delivery pain relief, but most often you will need to request it.

Paracervical Block

This is an injection given in the cervix itself. It provides delivery pain relief only. Many physicians do not use this form of pain relief, but you can certainly ask for information about it, and if it is an option.

Pain Relief for C- Section Delivery

Sometimes, for many reasons, the need for a c- section delivery arises. If you find yourself in a situation requiring c- section, you will have three pain relief options, often chosen by your physician. In some circumstances, you will get to discuss with your physician which option you will use, but in the event of an emergency, you won’t get a say-so.


* Please see explanation near beginning *

 Spinal Block

Very similar to the procedure of the epidural except that the anesthetic or narcotic medication is injected only once into the back via needle and syringe. This pain relief medication is so powerful that you will generally not feel anything below your breastbone. For instance, you can try to wiggle your toes, and you know you are trying to move them, but they absolutely will not move. The side effects are about the same as an epidural as well.

 It’s clear that there are some great pain relief options available during labor and delivery today. Every woman is different, and every physician is different, so discuss pain relief options with your doctor often throughout your pregnancy to learn what options are available to you. Get familiar with the risks and benefits of each option so that you will be certain which method(s) you really want to use during your labor and delivery.


The American Pregnancy Association website