Options for Pain Relief During Labor

Institutes & Services > Women's Services

We offer several options for pain relief during labor, including many that do not involve medication. You can use these in combination with one another, or at different points during your labor. It’s completely up to you and your doctor or midwife. Your care coordinator, your doctor or your midwife can tell you more about these options.

  • Unmedicated labor - Coping techniques such as massage, water therapy (showers), breathing and relaxation techniques, and music are available for women who choose unmedicated labor. It is best to attend a childbirth preparation class to obtain the most up-to-date information. These classes prepare the woman and her partner for varied labor experiences and offer ideas for comfort and support, including effective methods to relieve labor pain or to use during unmedicated labor or early labor.
  • Environment - It is recommended that you keep your Labor and Delivery room darkened and the noise level low. Your hospital TV has a relaxation channel (channel 12) you may want to use.
  • Massage - Gentle touch and relaxation massage of various forms convey pain reduction messages, depending on the quality and circumstances of the touch (i.e., patting, stroking, holding a hand or a more formal purposeful massage technique). Classes and professional services are offered through the TriHealth Integrative Health and Medicine Center.
  • Hydrotherapy - Hydrotherapy enhances relaxation and promotes comfort and pain relief by immersing the labor patient into warm water. Eligibility for hydrotherapy is determined by your physician or midwife. The benefits include enhanced satisfaction through increased sense of empowerment, greater control of the birthing process, and relaxation to promote comfort and pain control with the goal of minimal medical intervention.
  • Doulas - A trained birth attendant, known as a Doula, provides nonmedical labor support. Doulas can meet with the patient prenatally or accompany women and/or couples in labor to provide emotional and physical support. They may also do a postpartum visit at home to help smooth the transition for the new or expanding family. While TriHealth does not provide Doulas, your nurse care coordinator can provide more information about how to contact a Doula prior to your delivery.
  • Birthing ball - Positioning with the birthing ball helps relieve backache, allows for pelvic rocking and encourages the baby to descend into the pelvis. The mother remains sitting in an upright posture, taking advantage of gravity and encouraging pelvic relaxation.
  • Laboring positions - Mothers can labor when sitting in rocking chairs or on the birthing ball, or by walking, tailor sitting, or with pillows for a side lying position.
  • Hot and cold therapy - During hot therapy, the use of a warm shower, blanket or a heat pack is known for soothing, pain-relieving effects. Application of cold may offer more relief for acute back pain as the numbing effect decreases sensation and awareness of pain.
  • Pushing positions - A relaxed perineum and tilted pelvis allows baby’s head to descend more easily. Pushing positions include assuming a 45 degree sitting position, foot pedals on bed, side-lying, on hands and knees, squatting with the use of a birthing or labor support person, or keeping the back rounded in a “C” position.
  • Epidural block - The epidural block commonly is used for both vaginal and cesarean deliveries because of the comfort it provides and because it is safe and relatively easy to administer. It is administered through a tiny tube inserted in the lower back. The insertion area is numbed before the block is administered, and pain relief occurs within 10 to 20 minutes. Epidural blocks are used to numb the body from about the waist down. They allow mothers to rest during the most strenuous part of labor (while their cervix is dilating) and enable them to push during later stages of labor.
  • Local anesthesia - Local anesthesia deadens pain in a small area only. Medication may be administered in the vaginal or rectal areas to numb the pain of an episiotomy incision or vaginal tearing and decrease the sensations of birth.

Besides your options for relief, you will have other choices to make – in consultation with your doctor or midwife – for your birth experience. You can choose who you want in the room with you during labor and delivery, including siblings as young as 5 years old (Classes and an adult chaperone other than your labor partner are required for children attending delivery.). You can decide who will cut the umbilical cord. You also may choose to have your baby room in with you.

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