For a pregnant woman who has decided on using pain medication for labor and delivery hearing the words, “It is too late to relieve pain” can be frightening. Why, and more importantly when, is it too late for pain medication during labor and delivery?

Stage progression and pain relief

Doctors will typically tell pregnant women to wait until the later stages of labor to report to the hospital. The first stage of labor can last more than 48 hours and in most cases, there is no medical reason to not go through this beginning stage at home.

Once you reach the pushing stage, it is too late for pain medication.

However, if you wait a bit too long, you could progress into one of the latter stages of pregnancy before heading off to the hospital. With the entire paperwork process, change of clothes, monitoring and IV, you may find you feel like pushing before you received any pain medication at all. Once you reach the pushing stage, it is too late for pain medication.

Choosing an alternative pain relief

There are last-minute options to reduce or eliminate pain, but you will need to be open-minded to these options during the latter stages of delivery. Spinal anesthesia blocks all pain and movement of the lower body. Most often, you will not be able to interact physically or push the baby out during labor while under spinal medication. Other potential pain medications include IV pain medications, which are considered safe for both you and your baby during delivery.

Breathing and pain management

Breathing is a woman's defense against pain during labor and delivery. When pains arise, it is important to focus on breathing slow, deep breaths. Restricting air intake by holding breaths in to combat pain will reduce oxygen levels in the blood, which is unhealthy for you and baby.

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