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Pain Management Before and During Labor

There are many ways Banner Health’s maternity care team can make your delivery more comfortable. Our highly skilled doctors and nurses work with you to create a pain management plan that addresses your wishes, so you have the support and care you need during labor and delivery.

Managing Pain Before Labor

Childbirth is painful, but it’s difficult to predict just how much pain you will feel and how it will affect your labor. It’s best to be prepared, consider all your pain relief options and stay flexible.

Before you go even into labor, there are things you can do to help you feel better during delivery:

  • Maintain your health: Research suggests being healthy and in good physical condition can help lessen the pain of labor. Throughout your pregnancy, continue to exercise, eat a balanced diet and drink plenty of water. While physical activity is generally encouraged, be sure your doctor gives you the ok.
  • Get ready: Simply being prepared can reduce your anxiety. Less anxiety equals less pain. Anxiety during labor can cause your pelvic floor and perineal muscles to contract, increasing labor pain. It also can slow labor progression by raising the stress hormones adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol. Find upcoming childbirth classes offered at Banner Health.

Managing Pain During Labor

Every woman’s birthing experience is unique. That’s why Banner Health offers many options to assist you throughout your labor and delivery. Options may vary by location so talk to your doctor about what kind of pain relief you want to during childbirth. And, remember, you can always change your mind!

Non-Medical Pain Relief

  • Aromatherapy: Aromatherapy uses smell to help control emotions. Certain essential oils (plant extracts) such as lavender, chamomile and eucalyptus may help you manage stress and reduce pain during labor. If you’re interested in aromatherapy, talk to your doctor. For aromatherapy to be safe and effective, it’s important to choose high-quality essential oils and understand how to use them correctly.
  • Peanut balls: A peanut ball is a peanut-shaped birthing ball. During labor, the peanut ball is placed between the mother’s legs to help open the pelvic outlet. It’s usually used when lying in bed; however, some women may find it comfortable to sit on, rock back and forth or bounce. Research suggests the use of peanut balls can also speed up labor.
  • Virtual reality (VR): VR relaxes and distracts laboring mothers, which stimulates the release of endorphins that relieve pain. Using an immersive headset, VR combines images of peaceful environments with soothing sounds. VR is available at select Banner Health locations.
  • Soaking tubs: Hydrotherapy is the use of warm water to provide comfort and relaxation. Select Banner Health facilities are equipped with deep soaking tubs for labor. Talk to your doctor during your prenatal visits if you would like to use hydrotherapy.

Medical Pain Relief

  • Nitrous oxide: Nitrous oxide (laughing gas) is mixed with oxygen and inhaled through a face mask. During labor, you take a breath of gas just before a contraction to help dull your discomfort. You likely still feel pain, but it won’t bother you as much. You maintain your ability to move around and can stop use at any time. Some women may use it before getting an epidural to help with discomfort.
  • Epidural: Epidurals are one of the safest and most effective methods of pain management for mothers during childbirth. An anesthetic is injected in the spine, numbing you from the waist down. Get more information on epidurals.