Pain Medication Options During Labor and Delivery

Our friends at Boston NAPS—a private nursing company and team of qualified Registered Nurses that specializes in providing nursing care to expecting, new, and experienced parents and families—are sharing natural methods to manage your pain while in labor.


These medications are given in small doses and used in the earlier stages of labor.  They are a good option for women who need pain relief when a woman needs more than natural methods to cope with labor.  Narcotics will reduce pain and take the sharp edge off contractions, but still allow you to feel things in your labor.  They are also helpful to reduce a mother’s anxiety and increase her ability to cope with painful contractions.  Narcotics are administered through an IV, and usually work within a few minutes and can last up to six hours. You and your baby will be monitored closely while you receive this medication.  They may make you feel sleepy, which can be helpful for women who have not slept well in the days leading up to labor.  Common types of narcotics used include: Morphine, Stadol, Fentanyl, Nubain, Demerol.


This form of pain management most commonly used in childbirth in the United States.  An epidural blocks pain and other sensations in the lower half of your body, offering pain relief from contractions but still allowing for the ability to move within your bed and feel the urge to push your baby.  When you are admitted to the hospital, it is a common practice that someone from the anesthesia team will come to your labor room to introduce themselves and tell you about an epidural, its benefits and risks and how it is placed.  As soon as you’re ready for an epidural in your labor, they will come to your room for the placement and it works within 20-30 minutes.  An epidural catheter is inserted into your epidural space, and medication continuously runs until after you have your baby.  Find out from your healthcare provider if anesthesia is located on your labor floor, and when they recommend asking for an epidural, and be sure to ask questions about it during a visit prior to your delivery so you feel well informed.

General anesthesia

It is important for all mothers to be aware of general anesthesia that might be used during their labor and delivery, so that in the unlikely event it is needed, you are better prepared.  General anesthesia is used as a back-up plan for delivery in the event of an emergency and an epidural or spinal dose is not able to be used or administered in a timely manner.  General anesthesia is used to put a mother to sleep for an urgent cesarean section and does cause total loss of both sensation and consciousness.  While general anesthesia is used in an emergency and in situations where the benefits outweigh the risks, it is important to know that it can cause a decrease in uterine blood flow and respiratory depression in the baby, so it is common for a hospital to have their NICU team present for delivery to support the baby at birth.1

1Danforth, David N, Scott, James R. Danforth’s Obstetrics and Gynecology. 9th edition. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. 2003.

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Boston NAPS, LLC is a Boston-based, private nursing company and team of qualified Registered Nurses that specializes in providing nursing care to expecting, new, and experienced parents and families. Boston NAPS services include prenatal, postpartum, lactation, and newborn support and education to families throughout Massachusetts. All services are offered in the privacy and comfort of your home, with some services also offered in a group setting. For more information about Boston NAPS, please visit their website at