Labor & Pain Relief
There are many safe options for pain relief during labor. We counsel patients on options in advance of labor as well as during labor itself; it is okay to change your mind! There are many safe options and we support each woman’s decision. We strive to ensure our patients understand their options.
Epidural anesthesia is a regional pain medication, blocking pain in the lower half of the body. More than 50% of women choose an epidural as pain management in hospitals. Because the anesthesia is regional, it does not cause a change in consciousness or alertness, though due to the numbing effects on the legs, women cannot walk with an epidural. An epidural does not increase cesarean rates and women still push well with epidurals as they still feel pressure, but not pain. A small catheter is administered near the spine to allow medication to be administered and maintain pain control during the labor, pushing, and if the repair of a tear needs to occur postpartum. Risks of an epidural are extremely rare, but when they do occur, are most commonly a transient headache.
Opiates such as fentanyl may be used during labor for temporary pain relief. The medication is administered through an IV; the onset of the medication is fast, and is out of the system relatively quickly allowing for safe delivery of the baby. While opiate analgesics are safe during labor, we avoid use close to the time of delivery as it can be sedating for the baby.
Nitrous Oxide is a gas, known as “laughing gas” due to the euphoric effect it creates. Nitrous oxide is rapidly metabolized so it does not have an effect on the baby. The patient administers the gas via a mask, allowing for pain relief as needed throughout the labor, delivery, and immediately postpartum. This does not completely remove the pain, but can allow the patient to relax and have some pain relief.
Some women opt for an unmedicated labor and delivery. Taking an unmedicated birth class can help with coping strategies and understanding the birth process. Both our delivery hospitals offer birthing balls, private jacuzzi bathtubs and adjustable beds to allow for position changes and positioning to help manage pain.