Pain Relief During Labour

The process of labour can be a traumatizing experience. The good news is that pain levels are never quite the same with every pregnancy. While some women choose to endure childbirth with no pain-relief, some would give anything to avoid it.

Over the years, various options have been developed to offer pain relief. Let’s look deeper into what they are and their side effects.

Pain Relief Methods

There are various methods that can be used to offer pain relief during labour. These are:

  • Medical Pain relief 
  • Non-medicinal pain relief

Medical Pain Relief

  • Entonox

This is a 50/50 gas mixture of nitrous oxide and oxygen. It offers short-term pain relief while more oxygen helps you remain conscious. it doesn’t completely take the pain away but it makes it bearable. Entonox is quickly eliminated from the body making quite safe for you and your unborn child.  It’s a commonly preferred pain relief technique because you can self-administer it.

      Side Effects

  • Light-headedness
  • You may feel sleepy and find it hard to concentrate
  • Pethidine

This is an injection on your thigh or buttocks, usually administered early during labour. It takes 20 minutes to take effect and can last up to 2-4hrs. pethidine allows you to move about as it does not have a numbing effect. Another benefit of pethidine is softening of the cervix to ease pushing at the last stage of labour. 

          Side Effects

  • Light-headedness
  • Can lead to breathing complications to your child if taken late during labour
  • Can interfere with your child’s first feed
  • Epidural 

This is a local anaesthetic administered only by an anaesthetist. It helps numb the nerves that send pain impulses from your birth canal to your brain. Epidural takes anywhere from 5-30 minutes to take effect. An epidural is recommended at the first stage of labour, though it could be done at any stage. 

   Side Effects

  • Headaches after epidural
  • Backaches for a day or two
  • Depending on local anaesthetic used, feel as though you have heavy legs
  • Difficulties peeing
  • Drop in blood pressure
  • Prolonged second stage of labour 

Non- Medical Pain Relief

This involves the following:

  • Learning what to expect during labour 
  • Exercise
  • Breathing techniques 
  • Changing positions
  • Massage. 
  • Doulas.
  • Sterile water injections
  • Water 
  • Environment 
  • Heat packs
  • Acupuncture

Read more about non-medical pain relief here


Please note that development differs from one child to another. 

Content intended for educational purposes only, and not a substitute for medical advice from your doctor.

Be careful when using any products mentioned on this website. We hold no regulations for such products or their providers.

Last reviewed March 2019

Sources: parents, motherandbaby, bochealthcare, betterhealth, pregnancybirthbaby, acog, nhs, bellybelly

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