Medical pain relief alternatives can be divided into two groups. Centrally acting alternatives or local anesthetics.
Centrally acting alternatives such as pain relievers, nitrous oxide (laughing gas) and morphine-like medication primarily target the brain and can affect the experience for the woman.
Local anesthetics affect nerve functions, meaning that the substance blocks pain impulses from reaching the brain. These can also affect the ability to move and may result in a lack of feeling. The advantage of these alternatives is that they do not affect the brain so that the woman can experience and take part in the birth. Methods that involve local anesthetics are those that are most effective at relieving pain.
With a spinal block/epidural, it is common to combine a local anesthetic with a strong pain reliever.
All medication given to the woman passes more or less to the baby. Consequently, it is vital to carefully monitor the baby while such alternatives are being used.
Sources: - Abascal, G., & Huss, M. S. (2018). Att föda. Bonnier Fakta.