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Labor and Birth — Managing the Pain

Author GreatDad Writers
Submitted 07-11-2006

All women worry about how they will cope with the pain of labor and delivery. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, childbirth is different for everyone. So no one can predict how your spouse will feel. The amount of pain a woman feels during labor depends partly on the size and position of her baby, the size of her pelvis, her emotions, and the strength of the contractions.


Natural Pain Relief

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, many women choose to deliver their babies without using medicine for pain relief.  Other techniques that some of these women use to help them include:

  • use breathing and relaxation techniques
  • take warm showers or baths
  • receive massages
  • have the supportive care or a loved one, nurse, or doula
  • find comfortable positions while in labor (stand, crouch, sit, walk, etc)
  • use a labor ball
  • listen to music

Building a positive outlook on childbirth and managing fear may also help some women cope with the pain. It is important to realize that labor pain is not like pain due to illness or injury. Rather, it is caused by contractions of the uterus that are pushing the baby down and out of the birth canal. In other words, labor pain has a purpose: this is to help your spouse feel positive about childbirth:

  • Encourage her to take a childbirth class. Call the doctor, midwife, hospital or birthing center for class information.
  • Get information from her doctor or midwife. Write down her questions and encourage her to talk about them at her regular visits.
  • Share her fears and emotions.


According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, more and more women in the United States are using water to find comfort during labor and delivery. In waterbirthing, laboring women get into a tub of water that is between 90 and 100 degrees. Some women get out of the tub to give birth. Others remain in the water for delivery. The water helps women feel physically supported. It also keeps them warm and relaxed. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, this eases the pain of labor and delivery for many women. Plus, it is easier for laboring women to move and find comfortable positions in the water.

Waterbirthing is relatively new in this country. So there is very little research on its benefits. Even so, some women say giving birth in the water is faster and easier. Plus, women may tear less severely and need fewer episiotomies in the water. Waterbirthing may be gentler for your baby too. It may ease the baby’s transition from the womb to the new world. The baby is born into an environment that is similar to the womb. Plus, the water dulls the lights, sound and feel of the new world.

Once the baby is born, it is brought to the surface of the water and wrapped in blankets. Ask your doctor or midwife if your spouse is a good candidate for waterbirthing. Water birth is not safe for women or babies who have health issues. Medical Pain Relief While your spouse is in labor, her doctor, midwife or nurse should ask if she needs pain relief. It is her job to help your spouse decide what option is the best for her. There are many different kinds of pain relief. Not all options are available at every hospital and birthing center. Plus your spouse’s health history, allergies, and any problems with her pregnancy will make some options better than others.

Types of pain relief used for labor and delivery include: Intravenous or intramuscular analgesic A doctor gives your partner pain medicine through a tube inserted in a vein (intravenous) or by injecting the medicine into a muscle (intramuscular). These medicines go into her blood and help ease the pain. Opiods including morphine, fentanyl and nalbuphine are usually used for this type of pain relief. This option does not get rid of all the pain. Instead it usually just makes the pain bearable. After getting this kind of pain relief, she can still get an epidural or spinal pain relief later. Some disadvantages of getting intravenous or intramuscular analgesics include:

  • They make your partner feel sleepy and drowsy.
  • They can cause nausea and vomiting.
  • They can make her feel very itchy.
  • These medicines cross into the baby’s bloodstream. So they can affect the baby’s breathing, heart rate and cause him/her to be very sleepy after birth.

Epidural anesthesia

A doctor injects medicine into the lower part of your partner’s backbone or spine. The medicine blocks pain in the parts of the body below the shot. During a contraction, the feeling of pain travels from the uterus to the brain along nerves in the backbone. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, epidurals block the pain of contractions by numbing these nerves. Epidurals allow most women to be awake and alert with very little pain. Many women who get epidurals do not feel any pain during contractions and childbirth. Medicines used in epidurals include novocaine-like drugs that block the pain in that region combined with opiods like fentanyl. Some disadvantages of getting an epidural include:

  • It can make your spouse shiver.
  • It can lower her blood pressure.
  • It can make her feel very itchy.
  • It can cause headaches.
  • It many not numb the entire painful area. So women continue to feel pain in an area of the abdomen and back.

Pudendal Block

A doctor injects numbing medicine into the vagina and a nearby nerve called the pudendal nerve. This nerve carries sensation to the lower part of your partner’s vagina and vulva. This is only used late in labor, usually right before the baby’s head comes out. With a pudendal block, you have some pain relief but remain awake, alert and able to push the baby out. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the baby is not affected by this medicine and it has very few disadvantages.


Spinal anesthesia

A doctor injects a medicine into the lower part of your backbone. This medicine numbs the body below where the medicine was injected. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, spinal anesthesia gives immediate pain relief. So it is often used for women who need an emergency Cesarean section. Spinal anesthesia uses numbing medicines similar to novocaine combined with opiods like fentanyl. Some disadvantages of spinal anesthesia include:

  • It numbs the body from the chest down to the feet.
  • It makes one feel short of breath.
  • It can lower one’s blood pressure.
  • It can cause headaches.

Also See

·       Helping your spouse prepare for delivery

·       Spotting the Signs of Labor

·       Choosing Where to Deliver

·       Who Should Deliver Your Baby?

·       Cesarean Sections