There are many types of pain relief during labour, some are no doubt better than others for many reasons. The important thing is that you choose a pain relief that is suitable for you. Whilst some options can help you a lot in a subtle way such as gas and air, other choices have a lot more side effects which come with their own risks.
1. Gas & Air
Gas and air is the most commonly used pain relief in labour, as soon as a woman is in active labour (4cm dilated) they can begin to use this as their source of pain relief almost 80 percent of women use it during childbirth with every contraction they get. Gas and air is also known as laughing gas, for many women it helps them relax into their labours and not be so uptight and worried. Although gas and air does not take away the labour contraction pains all together it does help ease the pain and when used properly with every contraction it can make labour that much easier.
Side effects from gas and air
- Dry mouth
- Nausea and or vomiting
2. Pethidine injection
Pethidine is used generally at the beginning of labour, as it is a muscle relaxer and sedative. Pethidine is usually given as a quick jab in the top of your thigh or bottom muscle. It is used to block the pain receptors in the brain and usually only takes around 10-15 minutes to kick in. Pethidine can make your newborn sleepy so can affect birth and breastfeeding but should usually clear up within a few hours.
Side effects from pethidine injection
- Respiratory depression in infant
- Drowsiness and confusion
Epidural is a regional aesthetic so only the bottom half of your body is affected, the rest of your body should not lose any feeling. The injection is given in the area where the contractions occur. An epidural numbs your tummy and downwards and is usually the most effective pain relief during labour.
Side effects of epidural
- Facial flushing
- Fever on the night of injection
- High blood sugar levels
- Localised increased pain
4. Being in water
Being in water during labour and childbirth is known to make a woman calmer because of the warm water on their painful back and uterus. Many women will still use gas and air as their main pain relief during the water birth. Some women may find that when it gets to push during labour the pain is less because of the water keeping them calm.
Risks of a water birth
- Risk of infection to you and your baby
- Umbilical cord has a risk of snapping before your baby comes out of the water
- Your baby could breathe in the water
- Your baby’s temperature could be too warm or too cold
5. Natural deep breathing
Deep breathing can really help you relax, it is a practice that is used in relaxation programmes such as mindfulness and has been shown to be extremely helpful in regards to reducing pain by promoting calmness. Check out some YouTube videos or self help videos to try and be more relaxed during labor and birth.