Pain Relief In Labour - A Quick Overview

Pain Relief In Labour - A Quick Overview

Image Credit: Elliott McFadden

You may be one of the lucky few who make it through labour without needing any pain relief; however for most women the offer of pain relief is very gratefully received!

Every pain relief option for pregnancy has it's pros and cons, so here is a quick overview of the most popular pain relief methods that are available to you when you have a baby.

1) Gas & Air

Gas and air is the method of pain relief that just about every one starts off with. You breathe in a mixture of the gases Oxygen and Nitrous Oxide (sometimes referred to as Entonox) through a face mask.

Generally the nurses at the hospital will give you a quick explanation of what to do and let you help yourself whenever you need it. You are therefore free to put the mask down and walk around if you want to. There are not thought to be any risks associated with this method of pain relief.

If you decide to have a home birth, your midwife may be able to bring cylinders of gas & air to your home for you to use.

Using gas and air for pain relief takes the edge off the pain rather than totally getting rid of it. The controlled breathing required for breathing in the gas and air can also be quite relaxing in itself.

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2) Pethidine

Pethidine is a drug which is administered by injection during the first stage of labour. Like any drug, different people will react differently to it. Some find it very effective, some do not and many find it makes them feel nauseous.

The main possible disadvantage of using Pethidine for pain relief during labour is that it can cross the placenta into the baby’s bloodstream, making baby drowsy and difficult to feed for up to a week after the birth.

3) Epidural

If you decide to have an epidural for pain relief, is given by an injection into your spine and this has to be administered by an anaesthetist. The traditional type of epidural will leave you with no feeling in your lower body; this will mean that labour may be lengthened and you will not be able to walk around during labour, or for several hours afterwards.

The loss of feeling caused be an epidural means you may find it difficult to push, as you cannot control those muscles and so intervention with either a Ventouse or forceps is much more likely.

Epidurals are also used if you have a Caesarean (C-section) delivery.

Your hospital may be able to offer you a Mobile Epidural which gives a lower dose of analgesia allowing you to move around and to be able to push at the later stages of pregnancy. If you want to have a mobile epidural, you will need to check with your hospital if this is available, as it requires staff to be available to support and monitor you.

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TENS stands for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation and it is a drug-free method of pain relief.

Sticky pads are stuck onto your lower back and a low voltage current passed between the pads. This stimulates your body’s natural pain relieving substances, endorphins, to be released.

Maternity TENS units can be bought very cheaply both online and in larger pharmacies, and some models can also be used after birth to improve any issues you have with post-natal incontinence. You can, of course, always use your TENS machine for other types of pain relief as well.

You can also hire a TENS unit just for a few weeks if you do not wish to buy one.

Again, different people have a different responses to using TENS during labour, some finding TENS very effective. Since the unit is battery operated, it cannot be used in a birthing pool.

5) Alternative Therapies

This includes Aromatherapy, Acupuncture, Hypnosis and Reflexology, all of which can be used as labour pain relief methods. These will not be offered by an NHS hospital and you will need to find your own practitioner if you want to try any of these techniques for natural pain relief in labour.

Whilst there is no scientific evidence for their effectiveness, some people find them useful.

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Pain Relief Options In Labour

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About eParenting: eParenting was started by Jacqui O'Brien in 2004. At the time her kids were 1 and 4 and kept her nice and busy. Now they are teenagers and still keeping her pretty busy!

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