Labor Pain Medication at a Glance

Spinal Block

What it does: A spinal block numbs the lower half of your body, and works more quickly than an epidural. It provides relief from pain, and is effective in small doses.

When it's used: It's best suited for pain relief during delivery -- not labor -- because it's usually only given once and the effects don't last long. It's most often used when the mother is too tired to push. A spinal block is frequently used for a cesarean birth, or if forceps or vacuum extraction are necessary.

How it's given: A spinal block is administered as a single injection into your spinal fluid while you're lying on your side. A thin needle is inserted in the same location of your back as the epidural. Once the spinal anesthetic is injected, the onset of numbness is quite rapid.


  • It works more quickly than an epidural.
  • A much smaller dose is needed than for an epidural.


  • You may experience a drop in blood pressure, headache, and some difficulty with urination.
  • As your blood pressure drops, oxygen flow to your baby decreases.
  • You'll need to lie flat on your back for four to eight hours after delivery.

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