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OhioHealth offers a variety of medications for labor pain control. Pain relief medications may be used alone or in combination with labor pain unmedicated comfort options. Together, you and your doctor determine if medication is the right option for you.
Analgesic medications dull labor pain and discomfort. They are not offered when you are close to delivery because they affect your entire body, making you and your baby sleepy.
Local anesthetics are given to numb the perineum (area between the anus and vagina) during delivery or afterward if stitches are necessary. They do not reduce labor pain or discomfort.
General anesthesia induces sleep for emergency or special circumstances during labor. When possible, we avoid inducing sleep so you and your baby can bond immediately after birth.
Regional anesthesia allows you to rest comfortably while your cervix dilates, enabling you to conserve energy for pushing. While you experience significant pain relief, you may still be aware of pressure from your contractions.
For both vaginal and cesarean births, an anesthesiologist (doctor specializing in pain relief) may administer regional anesthesia. A thin catheter is inserted near the nerves in your lower back. You remain awake but your lower back is numb, blocking contraction pain. Your baby only receives minimal exposure to regional anesthesia. He or she is alert and able to bond immediately after birth.
Types of Regional Anesthesia
There are two types of regional anesthesia-spinal and epidural. Your doctor will select the best type for you based on your general health and the progress of your labor.
- Spinal - Spinal anesthesia is used for cesarean deliveries to numb you from the waist down. It is administered in a single dose, begins working immediately and lasts for about two and a half hours.
- Epidural - Epidural anesthesia is administered as needed throughout labor and delivery. It begins working within 10 to 20 minutes and can be re-administered as needed through the catheter.
Possible Pain Relief Medicine Side Effects
Your anesthesiologist takes special precautions to prevent complications during labor pain control. Although side effects are rare, they occasionally include:
- Decreased blood pressure - We closely monitor and treat your blood pressure. You receive IV fluids to prevent a drop in blood pressure.
- Mild itching during labor - Most women find the itching to be quite mild; however, more bothersome cases can be treated with medication.
- Headache - A rare complication from regional anesthesia is a headache. If you experience a severe headache, notify your nurse so you can be appropriately treated.
- Local anesthetic reaction - While local anesthetic reactions are rare, they can be serious. Be sure to immediately tell your anesthesia provider if you become dizzy or develop ringing in your ears.
- Persistent pain in some areas - In some instances, the anesthetic does not reach a certain area of your body, leaving that area painful. Your anesthesiologist may change your position or move the epidural catheter to make you more comfortable.