Each woman’s labor unique. The amount of pain a woman feels during labor may differ from that felt by another woman. Pain depends on many factors, such as the size and position of the baby and the strength of contractions. Some women take classes to learn breathing and relaxation techniques to help cope with pain during childbirth. Others may find it helpful to use these techniques along with pain medications.

Types of Pain Relief

There are 2 types of pain-relieving drugs – analgesics and anesthetics. Analgesia is the relief of pain without total loss of feeling or muscle movement. Analgesics do not always stop pain completely, but they do lessen it.

Anesthesia is blockage of all feeling, including pain. Some forms of anesthesia, such as general anesthesia, cause you to lose consciousness. Other forms, such as regional anesthesia, remove all feeling of pain from parts of the body while you stay conscience. Not all hospitals are able to offer all types of pain relief medications. However, at most hospitals, an anesthesiologist will work with your health care team to pick the best method for you.

Anesthesia for Cesarean Births

Whether you have general, spinal or epidural anesthesia for a cesarean birth will depend on your health and that of your baby. It also depends on your why the cesarean delivery is being done. In emergencies or when bleeding occurs, general anesthesia may be needed.

If you already have an epidural catheter in place and then need a cesarean delivery, most of the time your anesthesiologist will be able to inject a much stronger drug through the same catheter to increase your pain relief. This will numb the entire abdomen for the surgery. Although there is no pain, there may be a feeling of pressure.


Many women will worry that receiving pain relief during labor will somehow make the experience less “natural.” The fact is, no two labors are the same, and no two women have the same amount of pain. Some women need little or no pain relief, and others find that pain relief gives them better control over their labor and delivery. Talk with your doctor about your options. In some cases, he or she may arrange for you to meet with an anesthesiologist before your labor and delivery. Be prepared to be flexible.

Most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask for pain relief if you need it. Contact us if you have any questions or to set up an appointment.