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Giving Birth: Managing
Pain Video Series

Video transcript: Anesthesia pain relief

Giving birth: Pain medicine

Medicines can be a valuable tool in labor. They can reduce or relieve pain. Some help you work with your contractions. Others allow you to rest.

Pain medicine questions

  • How is the medicine given?
  • How soon can I get it?
  • How long will it take for the medicine to take effect?
  • Does this medicine relieve pain or reduce it?
  • How long does it last?
  • Can I get another dose if I need it?
  • How will the medicine affect me?
  • How will the medicine affect my baby?

The choice of what you use is a decision you and your health care provider make together. Weigh the advice of your nurse or health care provider with your own preferences.

You can use the questions at left to get the information you need to make a decision about using a pain medicine.

Your baby is affected by medicine you take. How much your baby is affected depends on the kind of medicine, the timing of the medicine, and the dose.

If enough time passes between when you receive the medicine and when your baby is born, your body will process the medicine. That results in the medicine having less effect on your baby.

Deciding to use medicine

Pain medicines may slow labor. It's usually a good idea to hold off taking medicine until you feel you can no longer work with your contractions and you can't rest between them. Take medicine before you exhaust yourself fighting the contractions because this also slows labor as well as wears you out.

When you start having trouble dealing with contractions:

  • Change what you are doing during the contractions.
    • Change your breathing pattern.
    • Change your position.
    • Make the room brighter.
    • Focus on your partner's face or eyes during the contractions.
    • Ask your partner to do more, such as breathe with you or push on your lower back.
  • Focus on relaxing between the contractions.
    • Use your relaxing breathing between contractions.
    • Ask your partner to do things that have helped you relax in the past.
    • Use a warm pack or blanket to help your muscles relax.
    • Use the warm water of a shower or bath to aid relaxation.
  • Ask your nurse for help.
    • Ask if your cervix can be checked so that you know how far dilated you are.
    • Ask for comfort suggestions.

If you aren't able to get into a new rhythm to cope with your contractions, find out what pain medicines are an option.

Pain medicines used during labor and birth

Not all the medicines listed in the chart are available at all hospitals. They are also not used by all health care providers.

Talk with your health care provider about which medicines might be used during your labor and birth. When your health care provider suggests a medicine, it is always OK to ask what the benefits and risks might be.


Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Beginnings: Pregnancy, Birth and Beyond, sixth edition, ISBN 1-931876-14-2

First published: 10/04/2002
Last updated: 08/15/2011

Reviewed by: Allina Health's Patient Education Department experts