Analgesics for labor pain

Pain Management During Labor and Delivery

September 6, 2013 – 11:05

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Types of Pain Relief in Labor and Delivery

Each woman’s labor is unique, and the amount of pain she feels during labor depends on many factors. Her discomfort can be affected by the size and position of the baby and the strength of contractions. Some women take classes to learn breathing and relaxation techniques to help cope with pain during childbirth.

Others may find it helpful to use these techniques along with pain medications outlined below:

Analgesics vs. Anesthetics

There are two types of pain-relieving drugs — analgesics and anesthetics. Analgesia is the relief of pain without total loss of feeling or muscle movement. Analgesics do not always stop pain completely, but they do lessen it.

Anesthesia is blockage of all feeling, including pain. Some forms of anesthesia, such as general anesthesia, cause you to lose consciousness. Other forms, such as regional anesthesia, remove all feeling of pain from parts of the body while you stay conscious. In most cases, analgesia is offered to women in labor or after surgery or delivery, whereas anesthesia is used during a surgical procedure such as cesarean delivery.

Not all hospitals are able to offer all types of pain relief medications. However, at most hospitals, an anesthesiologist will work with your health care team to pick the best method for you.

Systemic Analgesics

Systemic analgesics often are given as injections into a muscle or vein. They lessen pain but will not cause you to lose consciousness. They act on the whole nervous system rather than a specific area. Sometimes other drugs are given with analgesics to relieve the tension or nausea that may be caused by these types of pain relief.

Like other types of drugs, this pain medicine can have side effects. Most are minor, such as nausea, feeling drowsy or having trouble concentrating. Systemic analgesics are not given right before delivery because they may slow the baby’s reflexes and breathing at birth.

Local Anesthesia

Local anesthesia provides numbness or loss of sensation in a small area. It does not, however, lessen the pain of contractions.

A procedure called an episiotomy may be done by your doctor before delivery. Local anesthesia is helpful when an episiotomy needs to be done or when any vaginal tears that happened during birth are repaired.

Local anesthesia rarely affects the baby. There usually are no side effects after the local anesthetic has worn off.

Regional Analgesia


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