What are my options for Pain Relief when I’m in labour?

15 Dec What are my options for Pain Relief when I’m in labour?

Black and white shot of newborn baby right after delivery

Pain management during labour is a very personal choice, childbirth can be a daunting experience and new mothers all react to labour differently. Some women have horror stories of 20+ hour labours with extreme pain, and others seem to breeze right through. When making a pain relief plan it is important to have flexibility and to know you can change your mind whenever you need to.

There are many medical and non-medical options, all with advantages and disadvantages. Preparing for labour pain throughout your pregnancy can help a lot. It is beneficial to have something to work on during the pregnancy, which should help reduce anxiety and stress. Learning about labour and all your options is a great way to reduce fear, so when the time comes you can be more relaxed.

Exercise is also important to undertake throughout your pregnancy. Being in good physical shape is important for the physical act of labour and for a quick bounce back afterwards. It can help lower overall pain levels, and anxiety. If you have any concerns about exercise during pregnancy, talk to your women’s health physiotherapist or your doctor.

There are quite a few non-medical pain relief options which are suitable during labour.

  1. Hot and cold packs can provide temporary pain relief.
  2. Massage techniques applied by a partner or trained childbirth professional can help with relaxation.
  3. Meditation and breathing techniques are often taught in prenatal classes for relaxation, tension release, and overall pain relief during labour. Many women find having something like this to focus on really helps them to handle the pain.
  4. Having music playing, and a loved one nearby can help lower anxiety and provide some rest and relaxation.
  5. Water birth is a popular option for home births and the warmth can help mothers relax. Being in water the buoyancy enables the mother to move around a little during labour, some mothers praise this as the biggest relief they got from labour pains.
  6. TENS or transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation is a form of electrical stimulation which acts on the nervous system. It sends signals though your nervous system to block some of the pain signals. When applied to the lower back with electrodes it can aid in the amount of pain perceived during labour. It uses no drugs and has no known negative effects for you or your baby.

Medical forms of pain relief are sometimes looked down on while “natural” childbirths are praised. Don’t let this completely rule medication out for you. All new mums feel the pain of childbirth differently and while you may have planned for a natural birth, if you find yourself overwhelmed by the pain, it is important to know your options and to allow yourself to change your mind.

There are a few alternate choices for medicinal pain relief including; epidurals, nitrous oxide, and other opiates like pethidine, morphine or fentanyl. Often one or more of these can be combined to provide optimal pain relief to the mother. Epidurals are a dose of local anaesthetic injected into the lower back around the spinal cord. This will numb sensation from the uterus and birthing canal. The ideal epidural should give the mother enough pain relief to relax and rest during the first phase of labour, but still allow the mother to deliver the baby as naturally as possible. Unfortunately, these side effects can sometimes cause disruptions to the birth process, with the mother requiring more medical help to deliver. Some side effects of an epidural occur as the drugs enter the mothers blood stream, these can include; a drop in blood pressure, a slowing of the second phase of labour (often due to the lack of activity of the woman’s pelvic floor), an increased chance of forceps delivery, and an increased chance of caesarean section.

Epidural risks and benefits should be discussed with your doctor prior to labour. There is a lot of information out there on pain relief, however speaking to a professional is always the best way to get a good understanding of the pros and cons to different pain relief strategies during labour. Most importantly, if you find yourself in labour and overwhelmed by pain, don’t be afraid to ask for other pain relief options, and remember that all pregnancies and labours are different.

Best wishes to you as you bring your beautiful baby into the world.

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