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I'm Nervous About Having My First Baby; What Are My Options for Pain Control?

I'm Nervous About Having My First Baby; What Are My Options for Pain Control?

Your pregnancy can be an exciting time as you prepare for motherhood, but if you also feel nervous, you’re not alone. It’s completely normal to feel nervous about labor, especially if you’re having your first baby.

Our team here at Westover Hills Women’s Health wants you to know that knowledge is one of the most empowering gifts you give yourself (whether you're pregnant or not).

That’s why we’ve broken down several options for pain control so you can make an informed decision during your labor. 

Non-pharmacological pain relief options

Common non-pharmacological pain relief options include:

Breathing techniques

Learning and practicing specific breathing techniques can help you manage contractions and promote relaxation. Deep, rhythmic breathing can be a powerful tool during the different stages of labor. It can even help shorten your second stage of labor.


Immersing yourself in warm water, either in a bath or a shower, can provide relief from pain and promote relaxation. Hydrotherapy is particularly effective for easing tension and discomfort during contractions.


Changing positions frequently, such as swaying, rocking on all fours, or bouncing on a birthing ball can alleviate pain and even ease the progress of your labor.

Some women also find that simply walking is helpful, especially during early labor.

Gentle massage

Gentle massage from a birthing partner or a doula can provide relief from back pain and muscle tension during contractions. Studies show it can also shorten labor by an average of three hours.


Using visualization techniques and guided imagery can create a mental focus that distracts from the intensity of contractions and promotes a sense of calm. 

Visualization isn’t just for avoiding the pain. Some women also focus on the pain of the contraction and imagine their cervix opening wider with each new wave of contractions. This helps create purposeful or productive pain, which doesn’t eliminate pain but does make it less stressful. 

Pharmacological pain relief options

Common pharmacological pain relief options include:

Epidural analgesia

Epidurals are one of the most common forms of pain management in the United States. The American Pregnancy Association estimates that 50% of women who give birth in hospitals have an epidural. 

Also known as epidural analgesia, an epidural is a medical intervention that involves the administration of anesthesia directly into the epidural space of your spine. 

It provides effective pain relief from your waist down, which allows you to remain conscious and actively participate in your labor. It’s also considered a regional anesthetic because it only affects one region of your body.

In many cases, the epidural provides enough relief that women may even nap during labor. This allows you to rest and store up energy that you can use later in the pushing stage of labor.

Intravenous (IV) medications

We can administer IV medications, such as opioids, to provide temporary pain relief. While they may not eliminate pain entirely, they can take the edge off and make contractions more manageable.

Because we give you these medications through an IV and they can affect your whole nervous system, they’re referred to as systemic analgesia.

Nitrous oxide 

While laughing gas isn’t as widespread in the United States, it's a go-to in many other countries, especially in the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia. An estimated one out of every two laboring moms in Australia use laughing gas.

Nitrous oxide is an inhaled gas that can provide pain relief during labor. You breathe in laughing gas through a special mask, and you can stop it at any time. If you’re nervous about labor, laughing gas can be particularly beneficial, because it relaxes you and alleviates some pain. 

A combination of pain relief options

The good news is that you don’t have to choose between pharmacological and non-pharmacological pain relief options. Many laboring women choose to incorporate both options. 

For example, you may try alternating your positions, massage, and hot water during early labor. Then you may decide to have an epidural. 

There isn’t a wrong or right way to labor. It’s important to focus on what works for you. You may even find that what worked in a previous labor isn’t what you need or want the second time around, and that’s OK.

Create a birth plan with your pain management preferences 

Whether you choose non-pharmacological methods, pharmacological interventions, or a combination approach, the goal is to create a birthing experience that’s right for you. Feel free to add your preferences to your birth plan. 

You can also learn more about pain control options through reading, attending local birth classes, or talking to our midwifery team.

Questions? Don’t hesitate to call one of our three San Antonio, Texas, locations. You can also use our online tool to book your next appointment.

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