Pain Relief Options During Labor and Delivery

Pain Management Options  Definition  Benefits Possible Side Effects
Natural Childbirth Comfort management during labor without medical intervention
Utilizes techniques such as: walking, pelvic rocking, jacuzzi/whirlpool, and breathing techniques
Family-Centered
You are able to be more active
No medication side effects
Discomfort of labor contractions
Intravenous Analgesia IV pain medicine to lessen labor pain Decreases pain sensation Does not eliminate all pain
May cause sleepiness and nausea
May decrease breathing for mother and baby
Medicine may affect newborn's behavior and reflexes
Mother and baby will be monitored
Spinal Analgesia (intrathecal) Single injection of medication is placed into the spinal fluid in your lower back
Pain relief begins within five minutes and lasts 1-2 hours
May be repeated for prolonged labor
Relieves most pain below the waist within five minutes of injection
Has fewer effects on the newborn than IV medications
May have itching, nausea, vomiting, decreased blood pressure, spinal headaches, infection, bleeding, or nerve damage (rare)
May cause problems urinating during the intrathecal
Mother and baby will be monitored
Epidural Analgesia* Medications are given continuously through a catheter placed in the epidural space in lower back
Pain relief begins within 10-15 minutes; lasting throughout labor 
Relieves most pain below the waist
Dose can be increased as needed
Has fewer effects on the newborn than IV medications 
May have itching, nausea, vomiting, decreased blood pressure, spinal headaches, infection, bleeding, or nerve damage (rare)
May affect the "urge to push"; may slow labor
May cause problems urinating during the epidural
Mother and baby will be monitored
Nitrous oxide Nitrous oxide gas is a 50/50 blend of nitrous and oxygen
A colorless, odorless and tasteless gas made for inhalation
Birthing mothers can self-administer nitrous oxide using a face mask and have the ability to control when they inhale the gas, which has a rapid onset
Dizziness, nausea and unsteadiness

*There are certain complications of pregnancy - bleeding disorders and abnormal blood vessels - that may make getting an epidural unsuitable. (If a blood vessel is punctured, the bleeding may cause pressure on important nerves.) It may be difficult to place the epidural correctly if you have a crooked or abnormal back or if you are obese. To find out if an epidural would be an option for you, consult with your prenatal provider.