There are many ways to manage pain during labor. It can often be done with no anesthesia or strong pain medicines. Talk to your healthcare provider about any choices you would like to explore.
Some of these are learned in special classes. Your healthcare provider can help you find classes. The hospital or birth center may have a tub or shower you can use during early labor. These methods may be of help to you:
A warm tub or shower between contractions
Massage and therapeutic touch by your support person or labor coach
Reading materials that are comforting or inspiring
Music that is soothing
Acupuncture and acupressure
Heat and cold application
You may plan to use little or no medicine. But you may change your mind during labor. You can ask for medicine at any time if you need it. The 2 types of pain relieving drugs are analgesics and anesthetics. Your healthcare provider will talk with you about any risks that medicine may have.
Analgesics are mild medicines that reduce pain. They can be used along with some relaxation methods. They can give you pain relief without total loss of feeling. They may lessen the pain of strong contractions. You may feel well enough to nap between contractions. They have little effect on your baby if given early in labor. This may be done by injection or by IV.
Anesthesia involves blockage of all feeling including pain. It can be given in the form of local anesthesia or regional anesthesia. Local anesthesia provides pain relief at a certain localized area of the body. The local anesthetic is injected near the nerve endings that affect a localized area, like the vagina, vulva, and perineum. Local anesthesia is often given when an episiotomy (incision to the perineum to prevent vaginal tearing) is needed. Regional anesthesia acts on a specific region of the body. Depending on which type of drug is used, it can block pain below the waist. Regional anesthetics include an epidural and/or spinal block.
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