To help control the pain and stress of labor, you may get pain medicines. The medicine can be injected into a vein or into the muscle. The most common pain medicines used are
opioids. They are also known as narcotics. Examples
include fentanyl, morphine, and
How opioids work for labor pain
Opioids suppress how you perceive pain, and they calm your emotional response to pain. They do this by reducing the number of pain signals sent by the nervous system to the brain. They also reduce the brain's reaction to those pain signals.
An opioid can help you relax between contractions and decrease the
pain. But it does not take all the pain away.
Opioids make you drowsy for a
short time. They can also slow your labor. But they are less likely than
epidural anesthesia to cause you to have a forceps or
vacuum delivery.footnote 1
The most common side effects of opioids include:
Feeling dizzy or lightheaded, or like you might faint.
Feeling sick to your stomach or vomiting.
Opioids are not used when you are close to delivery. That's because they can
affect a newborn's breathing. They can also make
the baby sleepy and less interested in breastfeeding if they are given close to delivery.
Health Tools help you make wise health decisions or take action to improve your health.
Decision Points focus on key medical care decisions that are important to many health problems.
Cunningham FG, et al. (2010). Forceps delivery and vacuum extraction. In Williams Obstetrics, 23rd ed., pp. 511-526. New York: McGraw-Hill.