Everybody’s labour is different and women labour differently
within each pregnancy.
It is difficult to predict beforehand what & how much (if any)
pain relief will be needed before the women goes into labour.
It is therefore important that both she, her birth partner & the
midwife spend time discussing the various options available.
Birth plans should always have written down what (if any) pain
relief the woman wishes to have BUT always remember she
could change her mind and have everything OR nothing
Some expectant mothers wish to labour with very little help or
intervention whilst others are happy to have everything going.
All the evidence available states that if a women is relaxed and
active, is well supported (partner or good midwife) then her
labour will progress more easily since tension causes greater
Pain Relief Options
A wide variety is available but they generally fall into
1. Those that use drugs
2. Those that are drug free
There are a number of advantages & disadvantages
that need to be considered.
Some drugs will affect either the labour, the mother
or the baby in either a positive or negative way
This is an opiate drug that is given by injection into the
thigh. It makes the mother feel sleepy and possibly
relaxed. It does not take away the pain
It can be given quickly & easily by the midwife but takes
20mins to take affect
It is more useful in early labour to allow mother to rest
Crosses the placenta to baby & if given close to birth
will cause baby to be born sleepy > breathing & feeding
Mother can feel sick, disorientated & out of control
Does not take away the pain
• Epidurals numb the body from the waist down.
• An anaesthetist gives a liquid anaesthetic
through a tube directly via a needle into the
mother’s spine at waist level.
• It makes her completely numb from the waist
down so she cannot feel the contractions.
• An electronic monitor is used to check on the
baby’s heart rate throughout.
• Epidurals take 45 minutes to set up and take
• Once in place and working the mother should
not feel any pain
• Disadvantages are that the mother needs to
remain on the bed, can have a longer labour &
that the baby may be born via a forcep or
Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation
TENs machines pass a small electrical current through pads
attached to the Mother’s lower back.
It interferes with the pain messages in the body and triggers the
release of endorphins which are the body’s own natural
It works well against mild pain.
It has no known side affects on the baby
It is self administered by the mother
She normally has to rent units
Entonox - Gas & Air
Gas & Air works quickly. It is a mixture of nitrous
oxide and oxygen and is inhaled via a mouthpiece
It takes away some of the pain.
(Acts as a distraction)
It wears off quickly.
It makes the mother feel light-headed, sometimes
a little sick but it doesn’t effect the baby.
Breathing exercises are taught at antenatal classes.
This involves taking a deep breath in and breathing
out very gently and slowly.
The idea is to be able to meditate through the pain.
Some women use alternative medicines e.g
acupuncture, reflexology or homeopathy
Massage has also been found to be beneficial
Mother is in a special pool either provided by the
hospital or hired by the parents. It is filled with
warm water & kept at a constant temperature
The baby can be born in the water as it continues to
breathe via the placenta for a short period of time
Advantages – mother relaxed, feels light(gravity),
encourages release of endorphins