The method of pain relief during childbirth is your choice, and this decision is best is made between you, your obstetrician/midwife, your anesthesiologist and your loved ones..
The Obstetric Anesthesia Service at Brigham and Women’s Hospital will support any decision you make regarding pain relief during labor and will provide you with the information you need to answer any questions you may have. Our goal is to make the Labor and Delivery experience safe and pleasant for you and your baby.
Epidural analgesia is generally administered when you have begun active labor with regular painful uterine contractions. We recommend that if you are even slightly interested in getting an epidural, you ask to see the anesthesiologist in advance. This will allow the anesthesiologist to obtain your complete medical history and to perform a physical exam.
Most importantly, it is best to discuss your pain relief options before you are in severe pain. Telling the anesthesiologist your preference, or signing a consent form for anesthesia, does NOT obligate you to get an epidural anesthetic. You may later decide that you would rather have natural childbirth or another method of pain relief.
It is almost never too late to get an epidural unless the head of the baby is visible (crowning). Even if you initially attempted natural childbirth and never saw an anesthesiologist, you may change your mind later on if you find labor to be extremely painful.
It is our recommendation that you attend childbirth education classes to learn about the available forms of pain relief. It is important that you keep an open mind and be flexible throughout the prenatal period and labor. People experience labor differently, and being flexible provides the maximum benefit for you and your baby.