Managing Labor Pain: 5 Q’s for a Labor & Delivery Nurse

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Labor pain is hard to describe to someone who hasn’t been through it. But you should know, they sure don’t call it labor because it is easy.

“For most women, going through labor is probably the worst pain you’ll experience in your life,” says Rebecca Peterson, RN, a labor and delivery nurse for Henry Ford Health System. “Pain management is important to help your labor progress in a controlled way.”

Fortunately, there are tons of ways to ease the pain of labor, so you are sure to find options that work best for you!

Natural options for labor management

  • Walking/moving around
  • Controlled breathing
  • Birthing ball or peanut ball
  • Tub or shower
  • Essential oils
  • Massage/pressure points
  • Hypnotherapy
  • Music therapy

Medicated options for labor management

  •  IV pain medication
  •  Epidural
  •  Spinal anesthesia (for cesarean sections)

Labor Pain Management FAQ

 With so many options to choose from, it can be overwhelming to decide what is the best option for your labor and delivery experience. As a nurse, Peterson plays a vital role is helping women get through labor – staying close to provide advice and moral support from early contractions to delivery and postpartum care.

 Here, she answers some frequently asked questions about going through those labor pains.

 Q: There are a lot of ways to manage labor pain. What is the most popular? What do you recommend?

 A: Of all the options, epidural is the most popular method of pain relief for vaginal births. For women who want unmedicated births, hypnobirthing continues to be popular, but usually requires classes and practice for best results. Many women utilize our birthing tubs to ease labor pains. Sometimes they work so well, we call them “water epidurals.” IV pain medication is an option for women who don’t want an epidural but want something to take the edge off their pain.

 Our recommendations are always tailored to the patient. We take into consideration your labor preferences, what we feel would benefit you and the baby the most, and what would be the lowest risk to you and baby.

 Q: Are there any labor pain meds or methods that can help labor progress?

 A: Every woman’s labor is different. Your providers can make recommendations to help labor progress based on:

  •  How much your labor has already progressed
  •  What number baby it is for you
  •  How your previous labors went
  •  Whether you’ve delivered vaginally before
  •  Your medical history
  •  Where you are feeling contractions

 With some pain relief options, like epidural, we’d like to wait to give it to you until you are in active labor (6 cm dilated or beyond). You need to stay in bed after getting epidural, so we usually want to wait until your baby is in the right position for an easier delivery. If you are in early (non-active) labor and want something for pain relief before we feel it is too soon to give you an epidural or IV pain medication, we recommend walking, moving around, birthing tub/shower or a birthing ball.

 Q: Are there risks associated with different pain management options?

 A: There are always risks when delivering a baby – whether it’s a vaginal birth or cesarean. Many moms are concerned how medications will affect them directly or if it will indirectly affect the baby. However, there also are many benefits to different pain management options.

 Additionally, your providers will never offer you anything that we don’t feel is safe for you and your baby. The best thing to do is talk to your doctor and the nursing staff about your options as you are approaching labor.

 Q: What advice do you have for moms laboring at home before coming into the hospital?

 A: Call in to the hospital. We will ask you questions about:

  •  Your pregnancy
  •  Movement of the baby
  •  If you think your water broke
  •  How far apart your contractions are
  •  How long you have had contractions

 We will let you know whether it is safe for you to continue to labor at home or if you should come into the hospital to be evaluated.

 Q: What advice do you have for moms in preparation for labor?

 A: When it comes to developing your birthing plan, we always recommend you talk to your provider several weeks before your expected delivery date. Your medical and pregnancy history will help determine what the best options for your birthing experience will be. Remember to stay open-minded. Sometimes things happen in labor that may not be part of your birthing plan.

 We also recommend you do your homework. Feel free to bring any questions you have to your doctor or midwife during your prenatal visits. They can answer all your concerns about pain relief options, what you should expert during labor and suggest reliable resources for you to get more information. Ultimately, how you manage your labor pains is up to you. Your doctor or midwife and the nursing team will respect whatever personal requests you may have.


For more information about pregnancy care and how to customize your birthing experience at Henry Ford, visit henryford.com.

 Rebecca Peterson, RN, is a labor and delivery nurse at Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital.

Categories: FeelWell