Pain Management Options During Labor – Know Your Options

Pain is inevitable during labor, but the fruits are equally rewarding. To manage the pain you have a variety of options to consider, but most often they are broadly three types:

  • Natural pain relief methods
  • Drug pain relief methods
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)

Natural pain relief methods:

These include:

  1. Breathing techniques – Rhythmic, paced and focused breathing in between contractions.
  2. Adopting a right position – By sitting upright, your delivery is aided by gravity.
  3. Heat application – Using a hot water bottle or a wheat bag offers relief.
  4. Water birth –  It helps in relaxing hence makes birthing process easier.
  5. Massage – Help in the release of endorphins which are natural painkillers.
  6. Walking in between contractions – Help to expedite the labor.
  7. Relaxation – Mentally stay calm and try not to let your apprehensions get the better of you. You can try aromatherapy if that’s your thing.
  8. Make your surroundings calm – This can be done by dimming the lights, using soft music to soothe you.
  9. Drink and Eat – As much as this is contraindicated, a study conducted by the American Society of Anesthesiologists proves that most pregnant healthy women can benefit having a light meal during their labor. Nonetheless, speak to your doctor beforehand.
  10. Restroom Usage – Use the restroom and attend all your nature calls. it will make you more relaxed.
  11. Partner support – Having your partner around to speak soothingly and comfortingly helps a lot. Also, having them hold your hand to encourage you is pain relief in itself.

Drug Pain Relief Methods:

Commonly used drugs are:

  • Anesthetics: Local AnesthesiaInhalational AnesthesiaGeneral Anesthesia
  • Analgesics:



Local Anesthesia:

  1.  Epidural – Most commonly used to offer pain relief in the hospitals, where an anesthetic agent is introduced into the epidural space. Acts on the lower half of the body.
  2. Regional anesthesia – Some expectant mothers, want to have the feel of a natural delivery, but if case an episiotomy is carried out, then there is a need for a local/regional anesthesia around the vagina.
  3. Pudendal block – The block is administered within the vaginal wall. It offers relief to the area between the anus and vagina.
  4. Spinal anesthesia – Its a block given to the lower half of your body. It acts faster than an epidural.

Inhalational Anesthesia:

  1. Nitrous Oxide: It is also known as “laughing gas”. Entonox  ( 50% oxygen and 50% nitrous oxide) is commonly used. It is breathed in for 30 seconds and is useful in taking the edge off during your contractions.

General Anesthesia:

Unlike local or inhalational anesthesia in which the patient is conscious and aware, general anesthesia puts you in complete sleep. It is only done in case of complications and is not done in routine delivery procedures.


They are drugs given to make the patient more relaxed and calm in order to reduce apprehension. It doesn’t block the pain pathways.


They help in reducing pain and are used to a lesser degree than anesthetics. These drugs are administered into the muscle (intramuscular) or into a vein (intravenous). Pethidine is an opiate which is given via drip to help in numbing the pain during labor.

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS):

TENS is given using a hand-held device which gives out electrical pulses and helps in providing relief before labor. So this can be used when you are at home and are headed to the hospital.

These are few of the options that you can consider to help provide pain relief during your labor. Whether it is a natural birthing that you prefer or choose to use anesthesia, it is a purely personal choice, though we recommend you to have your partner with you when you discuss it with your doctor and choose the right pain relief option for you.

Note: The decision to choose the right pain relief method is influenced by a variety of parameters which include your pain threshold and your health status.  So, speak to your doctor well in advance to make your delivery a painless or (in case you choose a natural birth) an easy one.





Dr. Aishwarya Rajeev has completed her MDS degree and is currently pursuing her PhD. She is an avid reader and loves to teach and write!

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