Managing Pain During Labor and Delivery

LaborA Team Approach to Pain Management

One of the most common concerns about labor and delivery is pain. How much will it hurt? How will I cope?

At MyMichigan, we use a team approach to help you effectively manage your pain. Your pain management team will include your physician, our nursing staff, an anesthesia provider, your support network – and you.

Be Prepared, Be Flexible

Every woman – and every delivery – is different. Although some women have little need for pain medication, others feel that some type of medication allows them to feel more in control during childbirth. Experienced moms may also find that what worked best for one birth doesn't apply to the next child at all.

Choosing the most effective pain relief method will depend on your personal goals and beliefs plus a number of factors that can only be determined during labor and delivery. These factors include how far along your labor has progressed; the location, type and severity of your pain; and other safety and medical concerns.

Learn as much as you can about your options ahead of time. Then keep an open mind and work closely with your pain management team throughout the process to select the method that is right for you.

Pain Management During Labor

The most effective pain management begins long before the baby is born – with education. Your physician will tell you about the educational opportunities available at MyMichigan, including classes that teach relaxation techniques and breathing methods. Education is one of the best ways to manage pain, because simply knowing what to expect promotes relaxation and calms fears.

Throughout the delivery process, we use a variety of successful treatments, such as:

  • Noninvasive pain management methods – These methods include breathing and relaxation techniques, massage, walking, whirlpool baths or showers, imagery, music and positioning techniques.
  • Systemic analgesia – This is often given as an injection into a muscle or vein. The medication takes effect on your whole nervous system, rather than one area of the body. This will help relieve the pain, but will not cause you to lose consciousness or sensation.
  • Intrathecal analgesic – This involves injecting medication into your spinal fluid. You can move and even walk with intrathecal pain relief, so it doesn't interfere with your ability to push. This method generally takes effect quickly and can be repeated if necessary.
  • Epidural Analgesia or Block – This involves injecting medication into an area called the epidural space, which surrounds your spinal cord. You remain awake and alert, but it may cause some or all loss of sensation in the lower half of the body, depending on the type of medication injected. An epidural may take about 30-40 minutes to effectively relieve pain, so it typically is given earlier in the labor process. 

If you need additional procedures, such as episiotomy or a Cesarean section, other pain management techniques may be used.

For more detailed information about these pain management methods, including a glossary of terms, please download our maternity pain management brochure (PDF 624 KB).

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