Ways to Avoid Medication During Labor
What advance arrangements should I make?
How can I maximize the chances of having an unmedicated birth once I get into labor?
How can those accompanying me in labor help me make choices about pain relief that I will be happy with in the long term?
hospitals where epidural use is the norm, limited options tend to be
available for women planning to rely on comfort measures and mental
strategies. You will want a hospital that provides comfort measures
(showers, rocking chairs, etc.), has policies that don't inhibit their
use (freedom to be up and around in labor, no routine IV, etc.), offers
sterile water injections for low back pain, and has nurses that know
how to help laboring women who don't have epidural analgesia. You may
also wish to consider birth in a free-standing birth center or at home
so that non-drug methods will be the primary or only option.
cover the possibility of needing to go to "Plan B," you may wish to
investigate the options for pain medications at your hospital or, if
you have decided on an out-of-hospital birth, at your back-up hospital.
(This website has a full section to help you learn about your options
and choose a birth setting.)
may want to seek a maternity caregiver or group practice that is
comfortable with your preferences and has lots of experience helping
other women have unmedicated births. (This website has a full section
to help you learn about your options and choose a maternity caregiver.)
you will be in the hospital, a doula or other experienced provider of
labor support can help you avoid pain medications and work with other
methods. At a home birth or free-standing birth center, the midwife,
midwife's assistant, or nurse may take on this role, and you may also
want to consider a doula. (This website has a full section to help you get the labor support you need.)
- ask everyone on your birth team (including any companions who came
with you and the nurses) not to promote pain medication; if you feel
that you are far from needing medication, turn down an anesthesiology
consult that may be offered; any promotion of pain medication may
undercut your self-confidence
- if you have low back pain that is difficult to manage, consider sterile water injections
- let your key support people know how you would communicate a clear
wish to move toward using medication, such as a specific phrase for
this situation only; this will help them understand when your
expressions of discomfort call for support and for trying other comfort measures or mental strategies and when you might truly be ready to move to medication
- if you feel close to needing medication, waiting for a fixed period
before setting anything into motion may help you get through a
- if you feel close to needing medication, a check on your cervical
dilation may show that you are close to the time of pushing and birth
- if you are nearing the time to push, you should recognize that pain
sources and sensations in the pushing phase of labor are different from
those in the dilation phase; pushing may be much more bearable.
If you are wondering whether to use medications, you and your team should consider
you entered labor with a wish to avoid pain medication, remember that
while commitment, preparation, and good support are important to
achieving your goal, everyone has an "enough" point. You may reach
yours. Knowing in advance the trade-offs of the various pain
medications will help you make a good decision for yourself should that
time come. (See Options: Labor Pain, Best Evidence: Labor Pain, and Using Medication in Tips & Tools for discussions of working with medication.)
- whether you felt strongly about avoiding pain medication before
labor, and would appreciate continued help from your labor team with
- whether having medications is your idea or you are being pressured subtly or overtly by others
- how close you are to giving birth, and what medication options are open to you at the time
- whether you have more stamina or are becoming exhausted
- whether changing the tone in the environment can help you stay on the drug-free path
- whether your support team has other drug-free measures to try.
Most recent page update: 11/16/2012
© 2014 National Partnership for Women & Families. All rights reserved.
Founded in 1918, Childbirth Connection has joined forces with and become a core program of the National Partnership for Women & Families. Together, these two women's health powerhouses are transforming maternity care in the United States.
News and Features
Childbirth Connection has joined forces with and become a core program of the National Partnership for Women & Families. Read more Our History
This interactive timeline highlights our trailblazing work since 1918. Launch timeline Our Vision
We want all women and babies receive the best possible maternity care. Play video Featured Resource
Check out our resource, "What Every Pregnant Woman Needs to Know about Cesarean Section." Read more Get Involved