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Top Medications to Manage Labor Pain


Though natural delivery is becoming more popular, many soon-to-be moms will opt for medications to manage their pain as they move through labor and into delivery. This is an intense and at-times painful experience for some women, so it's understandable that pain medication is part of the labor process.

However, for the health and well-being of both you and your baby, you should understand what types of medications are suitable for a woman during labor. That way, you are prepared and educated about the resources you have at the point of delivery and can discuss them more confidently with your family and obstetrician.

Types of medications used during labor

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, analgesics and anesthetics are two of the more common types of medications for pregnant women in labor. While the former works to reduce pain but not stop it completely, the latter takes away all feeling and pain during labor.

Here are some of the more common pain medications used during labor:

Epidural block: The Mayo Clinic states that this medication is a regional analgesic administered into the lower back near the spinal cord. A test dose is usually given at first, then if there are no reactions to the medicine, a full dose is given. Many obstetricians use an epidural block because it removes lower body pain associated with labor without slowing down delivery. However, it can decrease blood pressure and cause bladder issues, so it is important to discuss options with your doctor.

Spinal block: This type of medication is usually given before a C-section birth, as it is a strong regional anesthetic and completely removes pain for at least an hour or two. Doctors will usually administer the shot moments before delivery, and the medication typically has little to no effect on the baby. Like the epidural, a spinal block can also decrease blood pressure and cause bladder concerns.

Special note: Sometimes doctors will combine a spinal and epidural to offer immediate pain relief and continuous ongoing relief during labor, according to Babycenter.

Narcotics: This medication is used to help you rest and reduce pain, and is usually administered via IV.

Tranquilizers: Though these medications are not used often, tranquilizers will help reduce anxiety during a difficult early labor or C-section and last up to 3 to 4 hours.

Local anesthetics: If there is vaginal tearing during birth, your doctor might apply a local anesthetic to numb the area prior to stitching.

Though labor can be difficult, there are plenty of medications that can make delivery more comfortable and manageable. Talk with your obstetricians or doctor about which medications are right for you and your baby's health if you have specific questions. 

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