Labour and childbirth is usually a painful experience and every woman responds differently to how they would like to manage that pain. Some women prefer to avoid drugs and other medical interventions, however it is always good to be aware of the options available for pain relief, particularly if this is your first baby.
Non-medical pain relief options:
There are a few things you can do before and during labour which may help you cope better with pain and reduce anxiety. These include:
- Gentle exercise throughout pregnancy
- Attending antenatal classes to educate you on what to expect
- Breathing techniques
- Constant, support from your partner or loved one for the duration of labour
- Playing music to take your mind off the pain
- Massage, wheat bags, ice, warm showers or baths
- Acupuncture and acupressure
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)
Medical pain relief options:
- Nitrous oxide (laughing gas) – This is a great option for those who would like to take the ‘edge’ off the intensity of each contraction while still remaining in control. The other advantage is that it does not linger in either the mother’s or baby’s body. Nitrous oxide however can cause nausea/vomiting, confusion/disorientation or lack of pain relief.
- Pethidine: – A strong pain reliever, which is injected into the muscle of the buttock and can last up to four hours. Pethidine does provide good pain relief for some women and does not affect the baby if it is given not too close to the birth. Pethidine does have some possible side effects on the mother such as nausea, disorientation or difficulty breathing.
- Epidural anaesthesia: – This is the most common and effective pain relief option available, used for both vaginal and Caesarean births because they allow the mother to stay awake and alert during the birth. An anaesthetic is injected into the lining of the spinal cord through the back, making the mother feel numb from the waist down. The baby’s heart rate is then monitored continuously through labour.