Labor Pains
Your Options For Pain Relief

I think it's probably pretty accurate to say that the most feared part of childbirth is labor pains.

Maybe you want to have a natural birth, but you’re worried about the pain. Or, maybe you think that’s a crazy idea and you’re all about getting drugs to be more comfortable. Either way, you probably want to know what options you have. Here, I'll give you both medical and natural options for dealing with labor pain.

Medical Pain Relief

Epidural Block- A needle is inserted into the epidural space between the vertebrae of the lower back. Anesthesia is administered through this needle continuously, which will numb you from your abdomen down. Because you won’t have feeling in your legs, you cannot move much. Most of the time, an epidural provides complete pain relief.
Click here for info on walking epidurals

Spinal Block- A spinal block is similar to an epidural, but the medication is inserted in a slightly different spot, directly into the spinal fluid. The difference between this and an epidural block is that the medication is only administered once, so there’s no catheter left in place. A spinal block provides about an hour or two of pain relief.

Narcotic Pain Relief- Narcotic pain relief is given through an IV. These drugs don’t provide complete pain relief like the epidural and spinal block, but you can still move around.

Pudendal Block- A pudendal block numbs the vaginal and anal area. Medication is injected into the pudendal nerve, inside the vagina. This provides short term relief for the end of labor, but doesn’t relieve pain from contractions.

Paracervical Block- A local anesthetic is injected into the cervix itself. This can relieve pain from contractions. Paracervical blocks are rarely done these days because of the wide use of epidurals and they are notorious for causing babies’ heart rates to drop.

Entonox- Also called laughing gas, entonox helps take the edge off of the pain. You have control over how much you get and there are no lasting side effects.

Natural Pain Relief Options

Believe it or not, natural pain relief for labor does exist! Many women have the idea that it’s either all or none- get an epidural, or just deal with it! Obviously, you can’t get complete pain relief without drugs, but there are many ways to cope with the pain. Here are some natural options to help you through the pain of labor.

Hypnobirthing- This is a method of birthing where you learn to focus on releasing fear, which in turn, eliminates pain. There are many classes available for this method. Hypnobirthing requires practice prior to labor.

TENS Machine- The TENS machine is a small machine with four wires on it, that connect to small pads placed on your lower back. The TENS unit sends out an electrical pulse that blocks pain signals to the brain. It causes a tingling, or massage like feeling that helps reduce your perception of pain.

Sterile Water Injections- Sterile water injections are a little known solution for severe back pain during labor. Sterile water is injected into the lower back with a small needle. Studies have shown this can be effective at relieving pain from back labor. The injections themselves are painful, but the pain goes away quickly and usually offers relief within a few minutes. This technique is more rare than other options, so not all doctors and midwives offer it.

Essential Oils- There are essential oils to help you stay calm, focsed and relaxed, to help you cope better during labor. There are also essential oils that reduce pain.

Labor Positions- Changing positions frequently and moving around during labor can really help reduce labor pains. You can find the most comfortable position for yourself and use gravity to assist your baby moving down. This is an underestimated method of dealing with labor pains.

Water- Using warm water can be a very effective way of reducing labor pains. Even if you’re not planning a waterbirth, you can take a warm bath during labor to help yourself relax and relieve the pain. A warm shower can also be helpful.

Massage- Massage can be very comforting during contractions and can help alleviate labor pains. Firm touch is usually best during labor. Massage of the lower back, belly, shoulders and legs is very helpful to relieve pain and tension. Having a doula to provide massage can be especially helpful because they are familiar with techniques and pressure points to help reduce pain.

Breathing- Focusing on calm, relaxing breathing can help you to stay in control and manage your labor pains more effectively. It can help you to relax and focus much better. Women often need to be reminded to focus on their breathing during labor. Breathing causes relaxation, which in turn causes a reduction in pain. Effective breathing also increases oxygen to the baby. You don’t need to worry about specific breathing techniques or patterns. It’s more important to just focus on listening to your body and breathe calmly and relaxed.

Focus and Visualization- Staying focused during labor can greatly decrease labor pains. You can practice visualizing your baby moving down through your pelvis during the contractions. Other visualization exercises include picturing your cervix opening like a rose or imagining that the contractions are like waves lapping over your body. Using visualization can help you focus on working with your body, realizing that progress is coming from your pain.

A Note on Labor Pains

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