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Managing Pain During Childbirth

Informing you about the options you have while birthing at the OMC BirthCenter is a central goal for us.  We believe that, by offering you information on your options, we can help you make informed decisions and decrease anxiety surrounding the birth of your baby.

Culture, religious beliefs, family and peer relationships, personal experiences, and the media can influence how we view pain.  We will briefly discuss options you have at the BirthCenter to manage your pain. We encourage you to read this information and take into consideration your hopes for your delivery, and then talk to your healthcare providers and childbirth educators about your options and desires.

After gathering all the information, it is important to remember that no one can predict the course your labor will take or how you will respond to the pain of childbirth. Regardless of whether you use medication or not, having consistent physical and emotional support during the labor process is a great start to decreasing anxiety regarding your labor and pain.

We at the BirthCenter are here to assist you in the unexpected as well as the planned.  We are committed to working with you toward the style of labor you desire, keeping in mind our main goal… healthy babies and healthy moms!

NON-PHARMACEUTICAL PAIN MANAGEMENT (pain management without the use of medication)

This is an option for women at the BirthCenter who desire to labor with fewer interventions. During childbirth classes, expectant parents are taught comfort measures that can be used during pregnancy, labor, and beyond into parenting. We focus a great deal on equipping the labor support person with skills that can make a significant difference in the laboring woman’s experience.

The use of soothing music, water, counter pressure, hip squeeze, massage, rhythmic breathing, hot/cold therapy, and other hands-on skills are options for the laboring woman.  These techniques will not remove the full sensation of pain but will offer relief, confidence, and comfort in order to cope with the pain more effectively. Using these skills involve the labor support person in practical and helpful ways throughout the whole labor process.

PHARMECEUTICAL PAIN MANAGEMENT (pain management with the use of medication)

Sometimes labor presents itself with such intensity for extended periods of time that women desire to use medication as a way to deal with the pain or an expectant mother may decide in advance she desires to use medications during labor. The BirthCenter is able to meet the needs of both patients.

Timing of when medications are given can have varying effects on your labor.  As with any medication you take, there are benefits and risks. Speaking to your healthcare provider and gathering information from various sources will help you to make an informed decision.

The following types of medication are available at the BirthCenter and provide varying levels of relief.  You may choose to use a combination of the skills learned in class with the medication to achieve the birth experience you desire.



Analgesic medicine is administered in the form of a shot or through an IV. The analgesic medication will not take away all the pain you may be experiencing, but it does change your body’s perception of the pain. Relief comes within 10-15 minutes, and typically the drug wears off within two hours.  If you desire, you can have repeat dosages.

                                                                                                                                     Advantages:  Increases pain tolerance (takes the "edge" off), increases ability to relax.  

Disadvantages:  Causes drowsiness, can lengthen or shorten labor, can cause nausea or vomiting, itchiness, continuous monitoring needed/IV, and if given too close to delivery, can cause respiratory and neuro depression in newborns.

Other potential side effects for you or your baby can be discussed with your healthcare provider.


Anesthetics may numb only one region of your body, or they may let you sleep during surgery. These medications are given by trained specialists. Whenever possible, regional anesthesia is used so you can be awake during your baby’s birth. The type of regional anesthetic you receive may depend on hospital guidelines.

Anesthesia refers to epidural and spinal blocks. a physician specially trained in anesthesia, called an anesthesiologist, administers the medication in the lower back as you sit up or lay on your side.

Regional Anesthesia

Regional anesthetics may be used to numb your lower body during vaginal or cesarean birth. Since these anesthetics don’t circulate in your blood, little, if any, of the drug reaches your baby.

  • An epidural is a kind of anesthetic (medication to block pain).  It is most often given while you sit up or lie curled up on your side. A needle holding a flexible tube (catheter) is placed into your lower back. The needle is removed and the anesthetic is supplied through the catheter as needed. Sometimes a pump is attached to the catheter. The pump gives you a constant level of anesthetic throughout labor and delivery. Since epidurals only partly affect muscle control, you should still be able to push during a vaginal birth.

  • A spinal is most often given in one fast-acting dose right before delivery. You may be sitting up or lying down when it is injected. This may affect muscle control in your lower body. This includes the ability to push.

Advantages:  Provides pain relief without sedation, little effect on baby, can lengthen or shorten labor, and increases the ability to relax.    

Disadvantages: 15% chance of "patchy" block, may lower mother's blood pressure, decreases pushing effectiveness, confinement to bed, continuous monitoring/IV, possible spinal headache, itchiness, possibility of urinary catheter, and increased risk of maternal fever.

Other potential side effects for you or your baby can be discussed with your healthcare provider.

General Anesthesia

General anesthesia is most often used when a cesarean needs to be performed quickly. This anesthetic may be given as an injection, as inhaled gas, or as both. General anesthesia lets you sleep and keeps you free from pain during surgery. Delivery often occurs before the anesthetic has reached the baby.

Questions to discuss with your healthcare provider:





Important Numbers

Hospital ...........................................507.529.6600     Rochester Southeast ...............507.288.3443

OB/GYN .........................................507.529.6605     BirthCenter .............................507.529.6750

Prenatal & Family Education ..........507.529.6759



© 2000-2017 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.