Understand your options - managing labor pain

Just like no two deliveries are alike, the degree of labor pain is different for every mother. The best approach to pain management will depend on your personal preferences and how your labor progresses. It is difficult to predict what each labor experience will be like, so it is a good idea to understand your pain management options ahead of time.

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The caring and experienced staff at Adirondack Health will help you develop an effective pain management strategy so you can have more control over your labor and delivery experience. The anesthesiologist will work with you and your obstetrician to help decide which pain management strategy is right for you.  The anesthesiologist is available to assist you 24/7.

A range of options for pain relief during labor and delivery at Adirondack Health include breathing and relaxation techniques taught in childbirth classes at Adirondack Medical Center, laboring in the Jacuzzi tubs offered in the delivery rooms, intravenous (IV) pain medication, and regional pain anesthesia through epidural and intrathecal anesthesia.

Epidurals are what most women think of when they consider pain medication during labor. Adirondack Health’s Anesthesia Department offers this regional anesthesia that provides continuous pain relief throughout labor and delivery. An epidural is administered by injection through a tiny catheter inserted into the lower back to numb pain receptors, so mothers are comfortable and fully awake during labor.

Another option is to administer a local anesthesia and medication through a small needle in to the Dural space of the lower back. This is referred to as an intrathecal anesthesia.  Both epidurals and intrathecals provide mothers the ability to control pain they might experience during labor.

Each pain management strategy has its pros and cons, and some medications can affect your baby too. It is important to explore your options ahead of time so you can plan accordingly. However, you should plan for the unexpected. If the delivery doesn’t go as you may have hoped, it’s okay to change your pain management strategy at any time.

Things to consider

The healthcare team at Adirondack Health prides itself on providing one-on-one attention to every mother. In deciding a pain management strategy, ask your healthcare provider the following questions:

  • What's involved in the method?
  • How will it affect me? 
  • Will I be able to walk, or will I be confined to bed?
  • How will it affect my baby?
  • What are the possible side effects?
  • How quickly will it work? How long will the pain relief last?
  • Can I combine it with other methods of pain relief?
  • When during labor is the method available?
  • What if it doesn't work?
  • Will I remember everything?
  • Will I be able to breast-feed my baby after delivery?

Talk to your labor partner before delivery about your plan for pain relief. Review your plan with your healthcare team when you arrive at the hospital to give birth. Remember, you're free to request pain relief at any point during labor and delivery. It's rarely too late to ask. Trust your healthcare team to provide you with information about your options as your labor progresses — and trust yourself to make your own choices when it comes to pain management.