Pain management during labor is often one of the biggest decisions you will have to make and there are several options including intravenous pain medications, epidural anesthesia or natural labor which uses techniques other than medication.

Be sure to choose the option that suits you best so you’ll be ready when labor begins.
IV pain medications

Medications, often narcotics, are injected into your IV (or rarely given as an intramuscular injection) and are mainly used during early labor to help you rest and conserve your energy. They lessen pain but do not make it go away altogether. They often make you sleepy and usually cannot be given at the end of labor because they will also make your baby sleepy after delivery, which can affect respiration.

Epidural anesthesia

This is pain medication administered by an anesthesiologist during labor to
reduce discomfort. In both epidural and spinal anesthesia, medications are injected near the nerves in your lower back to “block” pain in a wide region of your body while you stay awake. Regional anesthesia greatly reduces pain throughout the birthing process and can also be used if a cesarean birth becomes necessary. It is best given well into the active phase of labor (around 5-6 centimeters). With this option, you are alert but are not able to walk or move around. Your ability to move around is important in helping your baby get in the best position for delivery.

Natural labor

There are many “methods” available for natural labor. This choice is not simply “going without medications.” You will need to educate yourself on breathing techniques, positions, massage, and other devices to aid in pain control. These techniques may also be helpful in the first days after the baby is born to help with relaxation when it comes to breastfeeding, coping with postpartum discomfort, or those times when caring for your new baby feels especially stressful.

Two of the most popular methods of natural childbirth preparation are the Bradley Method and Lamaze:

The Bradley Method stresses the importance of a Healthy Baby, Healthy Mother, and Healthy Families. It attracts families who are willing to take the responsibility needed for preparation and birth including a 12-week class series to be started in your second trimester. For more information and to locate an instructor near you, visit

Lamaze is built upon The Lamaze Healthy Birth Practices which are designed to help simplify your birth process with a natural approach that helps alleviate your fears and manage pain. Regardless of your baby’s size, your labor’s length and complexity, or your confidence level, these care practices will help keep labor and your baby’s birth as safe and healthy as possible. Please visit for more information and to locate an instructor near you.

The role of the doula in childbirth

The word doula comes from the ancient Greek meaning “a woman who serves” and refers to a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during, and just after birth. In some cases, a doula provides emotional and practical support only during the postpartum period. Studies have shown that when doulas attend birth, labor is shorter with fewer complications, babies are healthier and they breastfeed more easily.

We recommended that you interview several doulas to find the perfect fit for you and your baby.

Doulas near you: