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Pain Management during Labor

Labor and delivery are unique experiences for every mother. Some opt for natural childbirth—free of pain-relieving medications. Others choose some form of medication to ease the pain and stress of labor and delivery. No matter what you choose, we will do everything we can to help you have the birth experience you desire. Our primary goal will always be to ensure you and your baby have a safe, health delivery.

Coping in Natural Childbirth

Providence St. Patrick Hospital offers an extensive array of techniques to help women who choose to have a medication-free childbirth. These natural coping methods also help women who wish to delay the use of pain relievers until later in the process.

All of our maternity staff are trained in these natural methods. While you’re in labor, one nurse will be dedicated solely to your care. She will offer encouragement and support along with tools, such as birth balls, peanut balls and back massagers.

Relaxation can help ease stress and pain. We designed the Family Maternity Center for your comfort and safety, creating an environment where you can relax. Each private room offers a comfortable, home-like feel. In your labor and delivery room, you’ll find a jetted tub, small refrigerator, LED candles and speakers for your own music. Each room also includes laminated booklets, which give tips on breathing, physical and mental relaxation, laboring positions, pushing positions and ways for partners to support laboring mothers. And when the time comes for your baby to be born, we offer many tools to help you get into the best position for pushing, including a pushing bar for the bed as well as a birthing stool.

Relief from Back Labor

Some women develop sharp pain in their lower back during contractions. Commonly called “back labor,” the pain can be severe. If you experience back labor, we can help. First, we will suggest alternate laboring positions. Second, we will teach your partner how to use counter pressure against your back. And, we can provide sterile water injections into the lower back. These injections are entirely safe for you and your baby, and they have been proven to help ease the pain of back labor for many women.

Medication Options

  • Nitrous Oxide
    St. Patrick Hospital is one of few U.S. hospitals to make nitrous oxide available to laboring women. Women who use nitrous oxide during labor may feel pain, but the gas lessens the intensity. If you choose to use nitrous, you will inhale it through a mask or mouthpiece that you will hold yourself. If you breathe the gas 30 seconds before a contraction begins, the pain-reliever should reach its peak effectiveness when the contraction is strongest. Nitrous in the only labor-related pain medication that clears from the body through the lungs. As soon as you pull the mask away, the nitrous effect decreases; it is completely gone within a breath or two. Nitrous oxide has no known effect on unborn babies.
  • IV Medications
    Different types of pain medications, including narcotics, can be given through an intravenous (IV) line in your arm. These medications may make you sleepy. They will lessen labor pain, but they will not likely eliminate pain completely. You must have an IV line started in order to receive these medications.
  • Epidurals and Spinal Blocks
    Epidural and spinal anesthesia are very safe, effective ways to manage pain during childbirth. If you choose either of these methods, an anesthesiologist will review your medical history and talk with you before proceeding with the treatment.

    • For an epidural, the anesthesiologist will numb your back before inserting a very small plastic tube (a catheter) into the spinal space near the spinal cord. Local anesthesia and pain-relieving medications will be given through this tube, which will remain in place throughout your labor. The medications will block pain signals and temporarily numb the nerves. Once an epidural is placed, pain relief occurs in about 10 minutes.
    • For a spinal block, the anesthesiologist will use a very fine needle to give a single injection of mediation in the spinal fluid in your back. It blocks pain very quickly (within 3-5 minutes) and lasts 1-2 hours.
    If you receive an epidural or spinal block, you will be monitored for pain control and possible side effects, such as itching, leg weakness, mild nausea and decreased blood pressure.