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Pain control during labor- what your options are, including natural pain relief techniques

Pain Control Options During Labor

Labor is a beautiful process, but it can also be a painful one. Every mom tolerates labor differently, but thankfully we live in a time where mamas have choices on how to deal with labor pains.

Many moms, both first time and seasoned, are unsure of what they want for pain control during labor, and that’s ok! It’s good to know your options and keep an open mind to achieve the labor you want.

There are many options to cope with labor including non-medicated coping, epidurals, IV pain medicine, and nitrous oxide (also known as laughing gas).

Non-Medicated Coping:

Many moms like the idea of laboring on their own with no medicine. It is an empowering experience and you can have more control over the way you labor.

There are many ways you can reduce pain without getting an epidural or pain medicine, that still allows you to labor how you want to.

  • Movement: The best thing you can do while laboring is move around. Walk, sit on a birthing ball, and change positions frequently. Not only does movement help progress labor, it also helps with easing contraction pain.
  • Water: If your hospital has the option for laboring in a tub or shower, try it! Jets in a tub or putting the shower head on your stomach or back can help with discomfort.
  • Aroma Therapy: Using your sense of smell can help distract against the sense of pain. A lot of moms find using a diffuser makes a difference during labor.
  • Breathing: It sounds silly to say breathing helps with pain, but it really does! Breathing helps relax your body. Take big, deep breaths during the contraction to distract from the pain. The more you tense during labor, the harder it is to control pain.

If delivering non-medicated is important to you, consider hiring a doula for labor support. Do your research and find a doula that you think would be a good fit for you. They have so many tips and tricks to help you achieve your goal of a non-medicated birth and provide constant support.

Nitrous Oxide:

Laughing gas during labor is an old technique that is making a way back into the labor scene. Although not all hospitals offer this, it is a good choice for moms that are wanting to avoid an epidural.

To use Nitrous Oxide, you’ll have to breath it in using a mask that only you can hold on to your face. The key is to start breathing it in before the contraction starts, take deep breaths throughout the contraction, and then take the mask off when the contraction is done. It takes a few contractions to get the hang of how to use it effectively.

The nitrous isn’t going to take away the pain of the contraction, but rather it allows you to relax more and distract you from the contraction.

Some side effects are feeling dizzy, lightheaded, or nauseated.

Moms either love the nitrous or they hate it. Some moms say it provides just the right amount of relief to take the edge off, while others say it’s too hard to try and hold the mask on throughout the contraction or they feel claustrophobic.

The good thing about the nitrous is that if you decide you don’t like it, the medicine is out of your system within five minutes and you are able to try something different.

IV Pain Medicine:

Giving moms a little medication through their IV can be an effective way at managing labor pains. The most common medicine given is called Fentanyl and can usually be given every 1-2 hours depending on provider preference.

Fentanyl usually works great the first few doses. However, the more your pain increases and your body gets used to the medication, the less effective the medication is.

One downside to IV pain medicine is that it does cross the placenta and can affect baby. The medicine doesn’t last long so it isn’t a big deal unless you get the medicine right before you deliver. Your baby could come out sleepy and have difficulty crying or breathing. Usually hospital policy is to perform a cervix check before giving the medication to determine if you are too close to delivery for pain medicine.

IV pain medicine is a good choice if you need a little relief to get you through. It won’t stop the contraction pain, but should take the edge off.


Epidurals are a great option for moms who are over being in labor and want more relief than what the other options can give. An anesthesiologist will place a little tube in your back that will continue to give medication through it until delivery. They usually work really well at making the contraction pain go away, but they aren’t always effective.

Sometimes moms get the false impression that they won’t feel anything if they get an epidural, and that isn’t always the case. Epidurals are not great at getting rid of pressure when it comes time to push. That can be a good thing though because it allows you to feel where to push at and makes pushing more effective.

It is Your Choice:

When it comes to deciding what you want to use for pain control, it is ultimately your choice. No one should make you feel guilty for how you choose to labor. If you were planning on going without pain medicine and end up with an epidural, it is ok. Don’t let family or friends pressure you or influence you into making decisions you don’t want.

Remember this is your labor and pain control is up to you! Don’t be afraid to know your options and try for the labor you want.

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