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  • Writer's pictureMicah

Medical Pain Management...what to know!

Updated: Feb 2, 2023

Giving birth is an amazing and life-changing event. But, let’s be real – it can also be incredibly painful. For many people, the thought of going through labor and delivery is enough to make them anxious. No one likes to think about the pain of childbirth, but the fact is, it can be pretty intense.

Fortunately, there are a number of different options available for managing labor pain. So keep on reading to learn more about some of the available options!

Epidurals are the most common form of pain relief during labor, and they're very effective. Epidurals are administered through a small catheter placed in your back, and they work by numbing the nerves in your lower body.

Some of the PROS:

  1. This can provide significant relief from the pain of labor, and it can also help you to relax and focus on the task at hand.

  2. If you suffer from extreme anxiety, epidurals can really help you stay calm which will keep your labor progressing (rather than stalling out, which can very easily happen when too much cortisol releases into your body).

  3. It's also pretty awesome if you're having a C-section as it keeps you alert, but pain free, during the delivery of your baby (as opposed to general anesthesia which will knock you out for a hot minute).

Some of the CONS:

  1. You'll be confined to your bed once the epidural is placed and movement throughout labor is one of the most effective ways to keep the process moving along. If labor stalls too much, pitocin might need to be added into the mix to keep things going.

  2. You'll need to be coached through the pushing stages as you (hopefully) won't feel much of anything.

Another awesome option is Nitrous Oxide! More commonly known as "laughing gas", this option has been used in Europe and Australia for years and is now becoming more common in the States. Nitrous is administered by you (and only you) by breathing through a face mask. It can help reduce anxiety and reduce the intensity of contractions.

Some of the PROS:

  1. Because the gas is only in your system as long as you've got the mask on and are breathing, there is no risk to your baby.

  2. It starts working within about one minute...and heck of a lot less time than with an epidural.

  3. You can continue to move freely while using nitrous. And as I've mentioned before, movement is pretty key in keeping labor moving along so you can meet your baby!

Some of the CONS:

  1. Nitrous doesn't offer nearly as much pain relief as an epidural (but it's still pretty rad).

  2. Because you're the only one that's allowed to hold the mask to your face (it's not okay for your partner or doula to do it for you. In fact, you have to sign a heavy-duty statement of understanding to get the nitrous), you might feel too tired or spent to do that for yourself.

  3. Nitrous works best when it's timed with your contractions. That can take some getting used to (but with the help of your partner and a doula, you can get it down in no time).

The last of the "Big Three" medical pain management options is Morphine or Fentanyl. This one is typically only used during the earlier stages of labor. Once you're in transition, your provider very likely will not let you have this one. Morphine is most effective in early labor as it can make you drowsy which will allow you to get some much-needed rest in preparation for transition and pushing.

Some of the PROS:

  1. Unlike with an epidural, you won't be numb. The morphine will eventually wear off and you'll be able to move around again.

  2. Morphine doesn't seem to increase your risk of a C-section.

  3. The medication is given by an IV and a pump which allows you to administer it yourself. The pump does have a mechanism in place to prevent overdose.

Some of the CONS:

  1. Because morphine can make you sleepy, it can also make you nauseated, which is one of the yuckiest feelings during labor (outside of the actual contractions).

  2. Some of the medication will enter the baby's system which will cause a little bit of drowsiness upon delivery.


As with any major decision you'll make throughout your pregnancy and labor, it's important to do your research and talk with your provided to make the best choice for you and your family.

As you doula, I'm here to provide information, but I'll never try to influence your decision with my own views or thoughts. What's most important to me is that you're being given complete and correct information and that you feel confident in the decisions you're making throughout your pregnancy, labor, and delivery.

I'm just here to make sure you know your options!

Carry on, y'all. Carry on.

Micah is a birth doula.& photographer and a prenatal yoga instructor based in Fort Worth, TX.

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