Pain-Relief Choices | Fit Pregnancy

Pain-Relief Choices

Traditional and alternative options for labor pain.


If you’re like most pregnant women, the pain of childbirth is at the top of your list of concerns. While several effective pain-relief methods, such as epidurals, are commonly used to ease labor pain, not enough research has been done on their side effects, according to the doctors and maternity caregivers who attended a symposium on the subject in New York. In addition, alternative methods for pain relief are underused, so you must ask for them. The experts at the symposium, sponsored by the Maternity Center Association and the New York Academy of Medicine, reviewed what is known about available labor pain-relief methods. Their findings were published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Below is a rundown of those methods, with their known pros and cons.


 What it is  When it’s used Pros Cons

Epidural or spinal (drugs given via catheter between vertebrae)

 Can be given any time during labor, but many doctors wait until labor is well established  


 Virtually eliminates pain; dosage and timing can be adjusted


 Might lengthen labor; can cause fever or headache

Injection of opioids  Throughout labor  Can be given more than once during labor  Not very effective for  pain; might make baby sleepy
 Inhalation of nitrous oxide  Continuously or during contractions  Safe and effective; easy to administer  Can be difficult to time the application with contractions; not widely available










 Warm baths
of 1–2 hours

Best used after labor is well established   Might delay or reduce the use of drugs
Effects temporary; not always possible
 Walking  Throughout labor  
Can give the mother a sense of control

 Not always an option
 Sterile water injections for back pain  Throughout labor  Inexpensive; can delay or prevent the use of drugs  Slightly painful to administer; pain relief is temporary
 Touch and massage  Throughout labor  Can be done by loved ones  May not alleviate severe pain
 Doula or other consistent, nonmedical labor support  Throughout labor  No negative side effects  
Usually requires advance planning; may not be covered by insurance



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