What pain relief can I have during labour?

Pain relief options during labour

It’s nearly time to give birth and the apprehension may be growing about pain relief during labour. What are the options? What’s safe? And what do other mothers do? The good thing is that pain relief options should be explained to you by your midwife. But for good measure, we’ll run through them in this blog. I’m Rachael by the way, a qualified midwife, so you’re in good hands.

Whilst it’s good for you to know about the pain relief options, your birthing partner who will be with you in the delivery room may want to give this blog a read too.

What pain relief options are there when giving birth?

When it comes to pain relief, you can think about it on a sliding scale, from mild to stronger options. If you’re in the early (latent) stage of labour you may be offered paracetamol or something stronger such as codeine. At this stage, there are certainly some other ways to relieve pain and discomfort, have a bath, move around if you feel you can and ask your partner to massage your back. If you’re planning to use a TENS machine, now would be the optimum time to start using it.

Should I have gas and air when giving birth?

The next pain relief option you are likely to be offered is commonly referred to as gas and air. Made up of oxygen and nitrous oxide gas you will administer this yourself. Your midwife will provide you with a device you can use to breathe the gas mixture through.

Whilst it won’t relieve all of the pain, it will relieve some of it. It may even have you laughing, it is laughing gas after all.

Gas and air, also known as Entonox, isn’t harmful to your baby. It may cause some dizziness or sickness but you can control and stop if you feel this way.

Pethidine and other opiates during labour

Next up the scale is a Pethidine or diamorphine injection. As they are opiates, they are a form of pain relief that could leave you feeling drowsy, forgetful and sometimes sick. To ease the sickness, an anti-sickness drug can be administered at the same time. Just be aware that this method of pain relief doesn’t always take the pain away completely. According to the NHS, a small amount of the opiate will pass through the placenta to your baby, making them sleepy for a short duration but this effect does wear off. Because of this, the timing of when this form of pain relief is an option will be discussed with you.

It is however largely safe to receive for you and your baby, you will have the opportunity to discuss this option of pain relief with your midwife to enable you to make an informed choice.

    Having an epidural during labour

    Unlike Pethidine or diamorphine, an epidural is a local anaesthetic that aims to offer pain relief for a period of time. An anaesthetist is the only person who can give you an epidural and the risks will be explained to you by them. 

    Whilst rare, there are some risks associated with an epidural. Your anaesthetist will fully explain the process and procedures associated with an epidural to enable you to make fully informed decisions. You may experience a feeling of tingling in the legs. Or your epidural may either give some pain relief on one side but not the other. Or not work effectively at all. Your midwife and the anaesthetist will monitor your level of pain relief and try to offer alternative suggestions accordingly.

    It’s important to be sure that this pain relief option is right for you and it’s worth knowing that 1 in 10 women who have it may also need other methods of pain relief at some stage. 

    Hopefully that’s given you some insight into the options that are available to you. Click to read more from our pregnancy blog.

      You deserve to enjoy your labour, birth, and parenthood journey.

      Know what to expect, feel in control, and be heard with our online, midwife-led hypnobirthing course.

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