Women experience and tolerate pain differently. For some pregnant women, focused breathing is all they need to get through labor and childbirth; but for others, medication to numb the pain is desired.
There are a number of different medications a woman can take during labor and childbirth. It is important for you to learn what pain relief options are available.
Please discuss the options with your healthcare provider well before your "birth day," so that when you are in labor you understand the choices.
Also, keep in mind that your pain relief choices may be altered due to certain circumstances during your labor and delivery. Throughout your labor, your healthcare provider will assess your progress and comfort and help you work through your pain relief options.
You should not feel guilty about asking for pain relief medication. Each labor is different, and you are the only one who knows how you feel, so decisions regarding control of your labor pain must be made specifically by you.
Providing pain relief during labor and childbirth:
- Local anesthesia may be used by your healthcare provider during delivery to numb a painful area in or around the vagina if stitches are necessary. Local anesthetic medications do not reduce discomfort during labor.
- Regional anesthesia (also called an epidural or spinal anesthesia) is administered by an anesthesiologist (a doctor who delivers pain medicine) during labor to reduce discomfort. In both epidural and spinal anesthesia, medications are placed 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. It can also be used if a cesarean birth becomes necessary.
- General anesthesia puts you to sleep during the birthing process. While safe, general anesthesia is rarely used and only during emergencies since it prevents you from seeing your child immediately after birth.
- In addition, pain relieving medications can be injected into a vein or a muscle to dull labor discomfort. These medications do not completely stop pain, but they do lessen it. Because they affect your entire body and may make both you and your baby sleepy, these drugs are mainly used during early labor to help you rest and conserve your energy.
Expectant mothers can benefit from doctor-directed pain management or deliver without pain medication, using nursing support measures and relaxation techniques. In addition to the massage showers in each room, St. Vincent’s offer a whirlpool bath to aid in relaxation. Obstetrically trained anesthesiologists are available 24 hours a day to provide epidurals upon request.
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To speak with a St. Vincent's Care Line representative, call (877) 255-7847
To speak with somone at the front desk of the Medical Center, please call (203) 576-6000
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