How to Cope with Labor Pain

quick links
  Labor Pain: in depth coverage
  Labor Support: in depth coverage
  Avoiding Medication
  Using Medication
  Trends in Pharmacologic Relief
Comfort in Labor (PDF)

The experience of labor pain varies from woman to woman. It can also vary for the same woman in different parts of her labor and from one labor to another. Labor pain differs from other kinds of pain in ways that make coping easier. Labor pain is not a symptom of injury or illness, and is self-limiting, rarely lasting more than 24 hours. Contractions usually last no more than a minute or so, with often more than one to two pain-free minutes between them. Contractions usually start off mild and gradually grow longer, stronger, and closer together, thus allowing you time to adapt.

What factors affect my experiences of labor pain?

Your experience of pain depends on many factors including your belief in your ability to cope with pain, what you think is necessary to remedy it, your labor environment, and your previous experience with pain. Comfort in Labor (PDF) is a free and helpful article with body positions to help you cope with labor pain.

What factors affect my choice of pain relief options?

Your choice of pain relief options is limited by where you decide to have your baby. If you choose a hospital, you will have access to pain medication such as epidural analgesia, but may have very limited help with drug-free methods such as tubs, showers, and birthing balls. If you choose a birth center or a home birth, a much wider array of comfort measures and drug-free methods are likely to be available, but epidural analgesia is not available in these birth settings.

Pain medication isn't effective for everyone, just as each woman's tolerance of pain is different. And drugs have side effects that may harm you or the baby. It would be wise for you to learn about the advantages and disadvantages of all available options to manage your labor pain, so be sure to talk this over with your health care provider well before your labor begins. For more information on coping with labor pain, visit our section on Labor Pain and Labor Support. To learn about labor positions that can help to ease labor pain and help your labor to progress, start by downloading Comfort in Labor (PDF) with pictures of different labor positions.

Continue to "Tools That Work for Coping with Labor Pain" journey to parenthood

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Childbirth Connection is a national not-for-profit organization founded in 1918 as Maternity Center Association. Our mission is to improve the quality of maternity care through research, education, advocacy and policy. Childbirth Connection promotes safe, effective and satisfying evidence-based maternity care and is a voice for the needs and interests of childbearing families.
Most recent page update: 9/9/2010