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Medical Options for Pain Relief in Labour and Birth

Women experience labour pain very individually. Some women work with their contractions using comfort measures and others want or need pain medication. There is no right or wrong decision only one that works best for you. You may also change your mind during labour. It is helpful to keep an open mind about how you will manage your contractions. In order to make an informed decision, learn about the risks and benefits of medical pain relief and the alternatives before labour begins. It is also helpful for you to know the options available at your place of birth ahead of time.

The following links provide more information about nitronox, narcotic and epidural pain medications:

  • Inhalation Analegia (Nitronox gas)Inhalation Analgesia (Nitronox gas)
    Nitronox is a mixture of nitrous oxide gas and oxygen (also known as laughing gas)
  • Narcotic MedicationsNarcotic Medications
    Opioid analgesics, or narcotics, are a class of pain medications.
  • EpiduralEpidural
    A procedure that provides medication into the epidural space around the covering of the spinal canal that blocks or numbs the nerves involved in labour pain.

It's important to be aware that you may find it more difficult to cope with contractions if:

  • You lack confidence and are not prepared for labour and birth.
  • You feel overly fearful or anxious about the process of labour and birth.
  • You are not well-rested.
  • You do not have a support person to be with you during labour and birth.
  • You are not able to change your position or move around during labour.
  • Your baby is in a position that gives you more back pain.
  • Your labour has been induced or is longer than expected or you have had other medical interventions.
  • You have a low tolerance for pain.
  • You have had a traumatic experience in your past.
  • You’ve had a difficult previous experience with pain.
  • You are hungry or thirsty.
  • You have a full bladder.

There are different pain medications to help you cope with labour. Options available to you depend on your stage of labour.

Pain medications come in a variety of forms. Some provide more relief than others and some for a shorter or longer period of time. You may not know which type will work best for you until you are in labour. Talk to your healthcare provider during pregnancy about the options you may want to try during labour in order to make an informed decision. When in labour, choose the method(s) that works best for you and your baby.

For more information about the medical pain relief options available to you in labour and birth, follow the links above.

Date of creation: February 19, 2015
Last modified on: June 4, 2019


1Best Start Resource Centre. (2016). Pain Medications in Labour. Retrieved from