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Pain Relief During Labour: Care Instructions


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

  • Medicine. Your doctor may offer different types of pain medicine while you are in labour.
  • Comfort measures. This can include things like breathing techniques and massage.

You also can use a combination of these choices.

You can write down your choices for pain relief in a birth plan. A birth plan is a list of 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. Some women go into labour planning to use comfort measures only and later find that they need pain medicine. Plan for what you want. But be aware that you may change your mind 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 medicines can you use for pain relief?

If you decide to take medicine to help your pain during labour, here are some medicines that may be used.

Local anesthesia.

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 labour to numb your lower body. A spinal block is an injection of pain medicine into the spinal fluid. It quickly and fully numbs the pelvic area. In some cases, a doctor combines a spinal block with an epidural.


These are pain relievers given through a vein or as a shot in the muscle. 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. You can move around and decide when to use it.

What comfort measures can you use for pain relief?

  • 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: Your birth partner can massage your shoulders and lower back during contractions. Strong massage of the back muscles during contractions may reduce back labour pain.
  • 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 with the pain and stress of labour.
  • Acupuncture: Acupuncture treatment during labour may help you manage the pain.

When should you call for help?

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor 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.