Different Types of Pain Relief available during Labor

Women today have a wide array of choices when it comes to one of the most important milestones in a woman’s life: giving birth to another.  Thankfully, there are different types of pain relief available for the woman to take during labor, these can be medical or natural methods. Proponents of natural births often advise the natural methods of pain relief such as massage and breathing exercises often learned at antenatal classes.

When a woman gives birth at a hospital, there are a number of medical pain relief options available that the woman can ask for or request. These include an epidural. An epidural is the most popular choice of medical pain relief amongst women. It consists of a needle injection into the lower back of the woman where there are nerves that feel pain while in labor. The epidural is like an anaesthetic injection and makes the woman’s belly and waist down feel numb. It works by stopping the nerves that transport signals of pain from the womb and cervix to the brain. It helps woman to feel less to no pain during labor and removes the pain of contractions, although there are some slight, rare, but dangerous, risks that can happen when using this method of pain relief.

Another method of pain relief is called gas and air or Entonox. This is a mixture of 50 per cent oxygen and 50 per cent nitrous oxide (or laughing gas). It is inhaled by the woman using a mouthpiece or mask and can help relieve stress. Some women swear by it and some do not. Each woman is different. However, the extra oxygen is good for the mother and baby, and the gas does not stay in the system of either. It is a very mild form of pain relief and does not act in removing any pain, but can assist while in pain or stress. Some women can feel light-headed and nauseous when they use it.

Painkiller injections, like pethidine or diamorphine are an option of pain relief at hospitals. These are injected into the thigh or bottom of the woman and can last for up to two to four hours. They can help relax the woman, especially if it is a long labor, however, care should be taken they are not given very close to delivery, as they can slow down the baby’s breathing, making it slow to respond and cause the mother to be drowsy.

A tens (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) machine can be used in a hospital, although few have them, or they can be used for home births, for which one may need to hire one. They are a small machine with pads that are stuck to the woman’s back, these pads stimulate nerves with small but safe electric currents, providing a mild form of pain relief and are good for a woman with back ache.

Massage is a natural form of pain relief that is given to the woman to help her relax and be soothed. This is usually done by someone close to the woman like her partner, and has no negative side effects.

Breathing exercises are the other common form of pain relief some women opt to use. They are often learned from at antenatal classes and can help regulate the woman’s breathing making her more calm. They can also help in empowering the woman that she can take control of her own birth without any medical input. They do not take any pain away however, but can relive some discomfort and any stress.

Women can choose which method of pain relief they wish to have during labor, they can even consider not to have any if they wish, it is solely up to the woman. However, it is good that she can make her own decision from a wide array of possibilities. She must be aware of any risks of any methods she chooses to consider, especially if considering a medical form of pain relief.