Pain management during labor

You have many options for pain management during labor. Find out more about contraction pain, child birth pain, and how to manage them with or without medication.
pregnant woman in labor

Managing pain without medicine

Focused breathing. Breathing pattern techniques taught in childbirth preparation classes can be very helpful. 

Walking. Walk and move during labor to reduce pressure in your back and body. It’s fine to walk around as long as we don’t need to monitor your baby continuously.

Hydrotherapy. Spending time in the shower during early labor can reduce pain and stress and help with a slow or difficult labor.

Massage. Your partner or labor support person can massage your shoulders and lower back during contractions.

Managing childbirth pain with medicine

Analgesics are drugs that reduce pain and increase relaxation without causing complete loss of feeling or muscle control.


  • You’ll stay awake, but may be drowsy.
  • You’ll be able to walk, which can help labor progress faster.
  • You can still have an epidural if the analgesic is not enough.
  • They can help with pain relief after childbirth, too.


  • Pain is reduced, but not eliminated.
  • We can only give them if the baby isn’t coming soon.
  • You might have nausea or vomiting.

An epidural block is a numbing medication injected into your lower back through a small tube. While it reduces contraction pain, you can still feel your lower body and can push during labor.


  • You’ll be mostly pain-free from the waist down.
  • Once you’re in active labor, you can usually have an epidural anytime before the pushing stage. It can work for many hours. You’ll be awake and alert.


  • It’s a process — it takes time to prepare and 15 to 30 minutes before you feel pain relief.
  • We can’t give you an epidural too close to your baby’s birth. If you don’t plan to have an epidural but change your mind during labor, we may need to help you manage your pain in a different way.
  • Delivering your baby could take longer.
  • You won’t be able to walk.

A spinal block is similar to an epidural, but it’s usually given only before a C-section. It’s also injected through a small tube in your lower back. 


  • You’ll feel immediate pain relief from the waist down.
  • You’ll be awake and alert.


  • It only works for 1 to 2 hours.
  • You won’t be able to walk.