Beyond the epidural – more options for pain meds

June 22, 2012 12:00 AM by

It's no secret that for many women, childbirth is a painful process. While some ladies prepare for the pain by taking breathing classes during a pregnancy in the hope that they won't need medication, it's never a guarantee how you'll feel during labor. Especially for women who are having their first child, you can't always know what to expect. Even if you planned a natural birth, you may decide on meds once you realize what labor actually feels like. While an epidural is one option, it's not the only route. Here are some other common medications given during labor.

Narcotics
Narcotics, also known as opiates, are often the first step toward pain relief. While they don't completely eliminate the pain of delivery, they can help you feel more relaxed and better able to cope with contractions. You can have them injected into a muscle or delivered intravenously – either way, they'll take effect quickly. Common narcotics include Demerol, Nubain, Fentanyl and Stadol. One downside is that they can make you feel sleepy and might affect your baby's breathing.

Spinal block
A spinal block is similar to an epidural, but it's put directly into your spinal fluid and is a one-time injection (unlike the continuous delivery of a catheter). It takes effect quickly but only lasts for a couple of hours, so doctors usually recommend this if you ask for relief late in the birthing process or are expected to have a fast delivery.

Tranquilizers
These don't eliminate the pain but they can get rid of anxiety and stress at the onset of labor or before a C-section. They can be injected or delivered intravenously, and they usually start working in 10 to 20 minutes. The downside is that they can make you tired and could affect your baby's activity and muscle tone at birth.

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