When other coping strategies are not enough, a variety of pain-relieving medications can be used during labour
In her book The Birth Partner, Penny Simkin describes a continuum of feelings expectant women may have about pain medication in labour. Some women want to feel no pain at all, and want heavy medication as soon as labour begins. Others are very strongly opposed to the use of medication and want to avoid it, no matter what.
Both of those extremes, Simkin points out, are unrealistic. Using enough medication to make an entire labour pain-free can be risky for the baby and the mother. And there are situations when pain medication is necessary to deliver the baby safely.
Your goal may be to use pain medication only if you really need it. Or maybe you intend to use medication to help you through labour. Either way, you will be better able to make good decisions about the use of these drugs if you are well informed about them.
Begin your research by asking your physician about the medication available at the hospital where you are planning to give birth. Some smaller hospitals, for example, may have to “call in” an anaesthetist to administer epidural anaesthesia. Some hospitals have nitrous oxide gas available, while others don’t offer it.