Labor pain on your mind?

You may be dreaming of a painless natural birth. BUT things don’t always happen the way we expect them to, right?

And the fact is: Medication can help minimize the mother’s pain and suffering and allows everything to run smoothly.

There are many ways to address labor pain drug-free. However, as labor progresses — and contractions become stronger and more frequent — some women choose medication.

Options include:

  • Epidural – A regional pain-blocking procedure that can be used during labor
  • Spinal Block – A pain blocking procedure that’s typically used shortly before delivery
  • Combined spinal-epidural (CSE) block – A CSE combines the benefits of an epidural and spinal block to ease pain quickly and for some time
  • Pudendal Block – A local anesthetic used shortly before delivery to block pain between the vagina and anus
  • Inhalation Analgesia – that can be used during labor, such as nitrous oxide
  • Opioids

Let´s have a look at the most common anesthetic choices in the US

There are two main types of anesthesia, the epidural and the spinal block, both of which can be used during normal and C-section births. What changes is the amount given: for normal birth, the dosage is lower to allow the mother to move her legs, while for the C-section, the dose is a little higher, so it immobilizes the legs. Both are applied between the back vertebrae.

While less common, general anesthesia is recommended for emergency C-sections or if there’s a spinal blockage. The anesthesiologist is responsible for this medication and other pain-relieving medications in the postpartum phase. Before the anesthesia, they will apply a local anesthetic.

Become familiar with each different kind of anesthesia below:


  • It can be applied on its own and takes about five minutes to start kicking in.
  • The doctor will place the needle between the patient’s third and fourth vertebrae but will only inject the local anesthetic once the syringe’s tip hits the epidural. The anesthetic, then, affects the nerves that control pain impulses and blocks them. That way, the patient won’t feel anything while the doctors remove the baby.
  • It is continuously administered through a catheter placed on the back for as long as it is needed.
  • Nowadays, the amount of epidural given is significantly less than it used to be and even helps with dilation.
  • Considering it is administered properly, the anesthesia can even help with the dilation process because it relaxes the mother.
  • Upside: the patient will be completely conscious and pain-free. The epidural can even help control arterial hypertension. However, it can cause trembling and fevers.
  • It allows the doctor to control the amount of anesthetic injected throughout the birth.
  • It’s the most recommended anesthetic for normal births because it allows the patient to still have contractions, despite not feeling them and can last for as long as necessary. After all, doctors can administer it through a catheter.

Spinal block

  • It happens when the pain is most intense as it has an immediate effect and/or when the woman arrives at the hospital already far along in the birthing process.
  • The anesthetic is injected in the lumbar region between two vertebrae on the spine through a syringe inserted half a centimeter deeper than the epidural.
  • It usually lasts for about an hour. To ensure the effect won’t go away during birth, doctors will give the patient a combined spinal/epidural block for immediate and long-lasting relief.
  • The woman will have to stay in an uncomfortable position for about five to ten minutes while the procedure is done.
  • It is mostly recommended for C-sections
  • Trouble breathing, a decline in arterial pressure, cardiac arrhythmias, itching, cold, headaches, trembling, and nausea are some of the possible side effects.

Combined spinal-epidural (CSE)

The combined spinal-epidural (CSE) technique, a comparatively new anesthetic choice. It will deliver the rapid pain relief of a spinal and the long-lasting relief of an epidural.