What types of pain medication are used during labor and childbirth?
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Every woman experiences childbirth differently. Some women have almost no pain at all, only the discomfort of the body's adjustment to passing a fetus, and others have excessive pain to the point of fainting. In all cases, the attending doctor, nurse, or midwife will assess the mother's pain level and administer treatment to lessen the pain. Interestingly, some mothers report pain until the birth, at which point the pain vanishes; this is the exception, however.
For mild pain, especially leading up to labor, over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen are acceptable. Aspirin is never advised during labor as it thins the blood, making uterine hemorrhage more likely. These usually become ineffective as the labor enters the second stage.
Epidural pain relief is most common, especially if the baby needs to be born with tool assist or Cesarean section. This is injected into the lower back and is very effective at dulling or eliminating pain while allowing labor to continue normally.
Narcotic pain relievers such as morphine can be used, although they are more for relaxation of the body, and often cause the mother to fall asleep; this can interfere with the birthing process as the mother can no longer assist in "pushing."
Local anesthetic, injected into the region of highest pain, is helpful if there is the possibility of tearing or other damage to the vulva. This does not affect other parts of the body, however.
Tranquilizers and/or nitrous oxide are rare, but helpful treatments if the mother is experiencing severe anxiety or hysteria; while this is not uncommon, most families and doctors advise breathing techniques and coaching from a beside nurse or family member before medication.
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