Today, you are able to choose a variety of options to cope with pain-non-pharmacological options (positioning, water, breathing, relaxation), medication, (analgesics), epidural and/or local (anesthetics) or a combination of any or all of these options. Each has a correct time, a correct dose, a correct route of administration, and a correct purpose.
Many medications have some side effects which will impact what and when you might be able to receive the medication. For example, it is usually recommended that the cervix be dilated to 4-5 centimeters, and labor well established, before receiving an epidural, so that labor does not slow down.
It is important that you consider all pain relief options-both those using medications and those without. Think about how you respond to pain now, and think about what you can do in labor to work with the pain and cope with contractions. Know the options available to you, and discuss your ideas/concerns with your labor support person and health care provider.
Be sure to practice relaxation, breathing techniques, and other labor coping techniques daily. They will not only help prepare and condition you for labor, but also prepare you for your role as a parent!