Labor and Delivery

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP
    Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP

    Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP

    Dr. Balentine received his undergraduate degree from McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland. He attended medical school at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine graduating in1983. He completed his internship at St. Joseph's Hospital in Philadelphia and his Emergency Medicine residency at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center in the Bronx, where he served as chief resident.

What are pain control options during labor and delivery?

Many women opt not to receive medications or interventions for pain control during labor and delivery, while others choose medical or procedural pain control methods. Several different opioid analgesic and opioid agonist medications are acceptable for pain control. Examples are

Regional anesthesia is another option. This can be administered as an epidural, spinal, or combined spinal-epidural block. Research has shown that regional anesthesia is more effective than injectable medications for controlling pain. Moreover, large scale clinical trials did not show an increase in the C-section rate in women who opted for regional anesthesia.

Women who choose not to receive pain medications can use breathing techniques and/or imagery for pain control. Relaxation techniques and yoga have also proved beneficial.

What kind of monitoring is done during labor and delivery?

  • During the first stage of labor, you will likely have pelvic examinations to check the dilation and thinning of the cervix.
  • The baby's heart rate is usually checked intermittently with a Doppler device, or continuous electronic fetal monitoring may be employed.
  • External fetal monitoring is accomplished by placing a transducer on the maternal abdominal wall. The transducer detects the fetal heart rate and displays it on a visual tracing.
  • Internal monitoring is another method used to follow the fetal heartbeat. With this technology, a small electrode is passed through the cervix and attached to the fetal scalp.
  • The type of monitoring selected depends upon a number of factors, and it will vary from patient to patient. Your health-care professional will choose the most appropriate type for your individual situation.
  • Continuous fetal monitoring is almost universally used if the woman receives epidural anesthesia, or if oxytocin (Pitocin) is used to induce labor. It is also employed with high-risk pregnancies or if the labor is complicated.

Medically reviewed by Wayne Blocker, MD, Board Certified Obstetrics and Gynecology


Cheng, Y. et al. "Normal Labor and Delivery." Medscape. Updated Feb 25,2016.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/2/2016
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