Childbirth Pain: Not Mandatory Anymore!

Spinal-blocking the guilt.

Is childbirth painful? Do birds fly?!

Childbirth scenes in movies and TV shows have left no doubts about the extreme agony associated with a normal delivery, leaving the strongest of us quaking in our boots.

But this is 2017, and we have options.

Offering pain relief in labour: A WHO criterion

Did you know that offering pain relief in labour is one WHO criterion of the quality of care  a woman is receiving? Yet, it is in few hospitals that pain meds in childbirth are discussed beforehand. Sometimes, family members hinder more than help, by playing down the need for labor pain management. The justification offered is that generations of women prior have delivered without taking anything to reduce labour pain.

What causes childbirth pain?

Labour pain occurs because of the intense contraction of the uterine muscles in order to stimulate the passage of the child through the birth canal. This movement, called peristalsis, happens naturally in different parts of the body. For instance, in the esophagus, to push the food along when we eat. But during childbirth, it is a lot more intense— and really, really FELT.

Pain meds during active labour— What they are, when they are administered, and what they do:

  1. Opiates:
  • Some of the most potent pain relievers known to mankind.
  • Generally administered during early labour, as doing so in advanced labour can cause side effects for the child.
  • Opiates basically reduce the sensation of pain to some extent. And no, they don’t interfere with your urge to push. [1]

 Example: Morphine

 2.  Epidurals:

Have you heard the words “Spinal Block?”

  • The most widely known method of pain relief during labour.
  • Administered through the spinal column via injection
  • An epidural injection numbs the surrounding region so you don’t feel pain. (Though you might walk a little wobbly for a while, afterwards)
  • It is best to make your choice on an epidural, so the anaesthesiologist can be notified beforehand, rather than opting for none and changing your mind at the last minute (or the latest searing contraction!) [2]
  1. Tranquilizers
  • Medicines that are used to deal with anxiety.
  • Useful for women who begin to panic due to their pain. Panic and anxiety during childbirth are common, but if this begins to raise your blood pressure significantly, a tranquilizer is administered.
  • The doctor will assess the risk of using the medicine on you vs. waiting it out. [2]

Example: Diazepam

 Alternatives to drugs during childbirth:

Apart from these, some healthcare practitioners recommend Lamaze or rhythmic breathing, water birthing and walking as means to deal with labour pain.

When should you talk about labor pain relief options?

As you near the end of your term, it is imperative to schedule a doctor’s appointment to talk through options and clear misconceptions. You can weigh the potential risks of each labor pain relief method and choose what works best for you.

It’s all about timing:

While in the throes of labour, you may or may not be in a position to review your decision, or communicate it to the support staff. Hence, if the doctor needs your written consent to administer labour pain medication, it is best to do so well in advance.

Spinal-Block the Guilt!

While each woman experiences the pain of childbirth differently, you need to know that there is no shame or guilt in asking for pain relief, just as there is no award for toughing it out! Pain relief or not, the only true reward is the birth of the baby! It is a very personal choice and your healthcare staff should be able to respect your decision.

Relief for labour pain is available and even necessary in some cases. So shouldn’t the woman have a say, and empowered to access childbirth pain relief without guilt?[3]

Do you have a childbirth pain story of your own? Share it with us at and be featured on  our website!



  1. Using Narcotics For Pain Relief During Childbirth, American Pregnancy Association.
  2. Dealing with pain during childbirth, KidsHealth.
  3. Epidural Without Guilt– Gilbert J. Grant, M.D.
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