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Pain relief during labor

Labour is painful, so it’s important to learn about all the ways that you can relieve the pain. It’s also helpful for whoever is going to be with you during your labour to know about the different options, as well as how they can support you.

Write down your wishes in your birth plan, but remember that you should keep an open mind. You may find that you want more pain relief than you’d planned, or your doctor or midwife may suggest more effective pain relief to help the delivery.

Ask your midwife or doctor to explain what’s available so that you can decide what’s best for you.

Whether you decide to use pain relief during labour, there are a number of techniques that will help you be more relaxed, which can help you to cope with the pain.

  • Learn about labour – this can make you feel more in control and less frightened about what’s going to happen.
  • Learn how to relax, stay calm and breathe deeply.
  • Keep moving – your position can make a difference.
  • Leaning forward over a beanbag or sitting back-to-front in a chair may take the pressure off your back and abdomen.
  • Bring a partner, friend or relative to support you during labour, but if you don’t have anyone, don’t worry – your midwife will give you all the support you need.
  • Ask your partner to massage you (although you may find that you don’t want to be touched).
  • Have a bath.
  • Place a hot water bottle or hot pack on your back or lower abdomen.

Gas (Entonox)

This is a mixture of oxygen and nitrous oxide gas. Gas and air won’t remove all the pain but it can help to reduce it and make it more bearable. Many women like it because it’s easy to use and they control it themselves.

TENS machine

A TENS machine is a device that delivers small pulses of electrical current that may assist in reducing pain during labour.

Epidural

An epidural is an injection that numbs the nerves that carry pain from the birth canal to the brain. For most women, an epidural usually gives complete pain relief.

Pethidine

Pethidine is a strong painkiller given by injection. It helps reduce the severity of the pain, but does not take it away completely.

Non-medical pain relief

There are a number of ways of reducing labour pains without using medicine. These include massage and water immersion. It’s important that you understand the pros and cons of each one and decide which one might work best for you.

Sources: King Edward Memorial Hospital (The Use of TENS in Labour). Opens in a new window.Royal Australian College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists(Pain relief in labour and childbirth). Opens in a new window.Royal Women’s Hospital (Managing pain in labour)