Expect the unexpected

Labor and delivery are unpredictable. Labor pain might be more intense than you expected, or it might hurt in a different way. Even if you have a plan for managing labor pain, you might decide to change it as labor progresses — or the specific characteristics of your labor might prompt your health care provider to suggest a pain relief option that wasn't in your original plan. Keep in mind that birth isn't a test of endurance. You won't have failed if you ask for pain relief.

One thing is certain: The more you learn about options for managing labor pain, the more prepared you'll be to handle labor — however it unfolds.

Things to consider before you choose

So what's the bottom line on managing labor pain? Think about what appeals to you most, and ask your health care provider these questions:

  • What's involved in the method?
  • How will it affect me? Will I be able to walk, or will I be confined to bed?
  • How will it affect my baby?
  • What are the possible side effects?
  • How quickly will it work?
  • How long will the pain relief last?
  • Can I combine it with other methods of pain relief?
  • When during labor is the method available?
  • What if it doesn't work?
  • Will I remember everything?
  • Will I be able to breast-feed my baby after delivery?

Talk to your labor partner about your plan for pain relief before you go into labor. Review your plan with your health care team when you arrive at the hospital or birthing center to give birth. Remember, you're free to request pain relief at any point during labor and delivery. Trust your health care team to provide you with information about your options as your labor progresses — and trust yourself to make your own choices when it comes to pain management.

Jul. 22, 2011 See more In-depth