Pain Relief During Labour

It is one of the most important considerations for many women during labour; pain relief is always going to be top of the agenda whether you want a birth which is as natural as possible or are all for having as much help as possible. Whatever your feelings about pain relief, it helps to be armed with knowledge about the various options you have available so you can make informed decisions.


Gas and Air (entonox) is breathed in through a mouthpiece or mask. It relaxes and gives pain relief but it affects different women in different ways. For some women, gas and air is a dream and takes the edge off the anxiety while providing great relief from even severe pain, For others, it has little effect, and for some it causes nausea and even vomiting.

Pethidine is widely used during labour. It is an opiate which relaxes and relieves pain. It is injected into the thigh and because it often causes nausea or sickness, it is usually given with another medication to relief sickness. It may make you feel drowsy or spaced out, but if you don?t like the effect it has on you, you don?t have to have a top-up injection when it wears off. Talk to your midwife or doctor about the possible effects of pethidine on your baby.


This is an anaesthetic that can be injected into the back to numb the pelvic area, legs and abdomen. This is given by an anaesthetist and works by numbing the nerves. It wears off so may need to be topped up, and like most pain relief, different women react differently to it so your experience may be different to that of someone else. An epidural provides very effective pain relief but it does mean that you may experience side effects such as low blood pressure, sickness and itchiness. You will need a catheter as you won?t know when your bladder is full and there is a small risk of nerve damage. As with all methods of pain relief, it is important to discuss the risks and benefits of an epidural with your care team.

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Alternative Techniques

Hypnosis ? in order for hypnosis to work, you should be having hypnosis throughout the pregnancy and a registered hypnotherapist can advise you on this. Hypnotism is frequently used to help patients relax, whether in labour or undergoing another operation.

Acupuncture ? acupuncture is sometimes used during labour to help with pain; check with your hospital if this is something they will allow.

Tens Machine ? many women swear by the use of a tens machine to help with pain during birth. These have pads which attach to your back and send out pulses of electricity which either block pain signals or release feel good chemicals.

Breathing exercises, heat pads and massage can all ease the pain and relax you. It will help if you have been doing breathing exercise and relaxation exercise in the lead up to the birth.