Many women worry about how they are going to manage their pain during labor. The good news is that there is an array of options that you can try. As an obstetrics nurse, I see holistic methods of pain relief used very little, which is unfortunate because they can be very effective.

It is important to remember that everyone copes with labor differently and every woman’s body is unique to herself. Below I have outlined different ways of coping with pain along with their advantages and disadvantages so that you can decide what the best options are for you and your baby. I think it’s important that women make healthcare decisions based on a solid foundation of knowledge.

Common analgesics given during labor include Morphine, Stadol, Fentanyl, Nubain, and Demerol. Some of these medications are given as an injection either in the spine or muscle while others are given through an IV. Many women describe analgesics given in the muscle or IV as “taking the edge off.” But when an analgesic is given in the spine, it causes a numb feeling, usually from the waist down. For an intrathecal, an injection is given in the lower back, which will create a numb feeling for a few hours. For an epidural, an injection is also given in the lower back, but a catheter will remain to provide pain medication periodically throughout labor.

Analgesic Advantages:

  • Decreased pain

Analgesic Disadvantages for Mom:

You may experience…

  •  Nausea
  •  Vomiting
  •  Itching
  • Dizziness
  • Sedation
  • Low blood pressure
  • Headache
  • Decreased gastric motility
  • Respiratory depression
  • Longer labor

Analgesic Disadvantages for Baby:

Your baby may experience…

  •  Respiratory depression
  • Impaired early breastfeeding
  • Decreased ability to regulate body temperature
  • Central nervous system depression
  • Altered neurological behavior

Hydrotherapy: The use of a birthing tub.


  • Decreased pain
  • Increased relaxation


  •  Fever (if the water is too hot)

Aromatherapy: Using essential oils which come in a variety of scents.


  • Helps relieve anxiety and fears
  • Promotes relaxation and pain relief
  • Decreases nausea

No Disadvantages

Other Options:

All of the following help to release endorphins, which provide natural pain relief. And they have no risks to mom or baby.

  • Deep Breathing
  • Dim Lighting
  • Music
  • Massage
  • Meditation
  • Relaxation Techniques
  • Changing Positions
  • Hot or Cold Therapy
  • Support Person or Doula

Some Points to Remember:

  • Ask questions.
  • Be an informed decision maker.
  • You can change your birth plan at any time.
  • Be in control of your labor and delivery experience, but remember that flexibility is sometimes necessary.
  • You’re not a bad person if you decide you need pain medication.
  • And finally, enjoy this very special time in your life.

“Giving birth should be your greatest achievement, not your greatest fear” (Jean Weideman)