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Home > Patient & Family Resources > Health Library > Childbirth: Opioid Pain Medicines
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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. Examples include fentanyl, morphine, and nalbuphine.
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:
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.
Cunningham FG, et al. (2010). Forceps delivery and vacuum extraction. In Williams Obstetrics, 23rd ed., pp. 511–526. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Current as of:
June 16, 2021
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: Kathleen Romito MD - Family MedicineAdam Husney MD - Family MedicineJohn M. Freedman MD - Anesthesiology
Current as of: June 16, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & John M. Freedman MD - Anesthesiology
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