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Pain Relief During Labour: Care Instructions


You can choose from a few types of pain relief for childbirth. These types include:

  • Medical. Your doctor or midwife may offer different types of pain medicine while you are in labour.
  • Non-medical. This can include things like breathing techniques and massage.

You also can use more than one of these choices.

Think about what you want during labour. Your personal needs are important when you make this choice. The right choice is the one that feels right to you. Every labour is different. You may go into labour planning to use non-medical options only and later find that you need pain medicine. For example, you will be given medicines if you need a caesarean (C-section). Plan for what you want. But be aware that things can change during labour.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

What medical options can you use for pain relief?

Here are some medicines that you may be able to choose for pain control during childbirth.

  • Pudendal block. You get a shot of medicine to numb the area and relieve pain around the vaginal opening.
  • Regional anesthesia. A doctor injects medicine into a space around the spinal cord. This is called an epidural. It's used during childbirth to relieve pain. A spinal is an injection of medicine into the spinal fluid. It works faster than an epidural. In some cases, a doctor combines a spinal with an epidural.
  • IV medicines. These are medicines given through a vein. They can help ease anxiety and pain. But they don't stop pain completely.
  • Nitrous oxide. You can give yourself nitrous oxide through a mask when you need pain relief.

What are some examples?

Non-medical pain relief includes:

  • Breathing techniques. Breathing in a rhythm can distract you from pain. Childbirth classes can teach you how to do focused breathing.
  • Distraction. You can walk, play cards, listen to music, watch TV, take a shower, or read. These can help take your mind off your contractions.
  • Massage. You can ask someone to massage your shoulders and lower back during contractions.
  • Imagery. You can imagine a peaceful place. For instance, you can think of contractions as waves rolling over you.
  • Labouring in water. Soaking in warm water may help ease stress in early labour.
  • Acupuncture. This treatment during labour may help you manage pain.

When should you call for help?

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor, midwife, or nurse advice line if:

  • You want to learn more about pain relief.
  • You want to learn more about childbirth classes.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.