10 Pain Relief Choices for Labour: Pros and Cons

Pain relief choices for labour

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It can be overwhelming trying to decide which pain relief choices to use for labour. I experienced very different types of pain relief when I was having my two children. Understanding the pros and cons of each one made my second labour quicker and easier. These are 10 pain relief choices you need to know about before you give birth.

1. Movement

Frequently changing position helps to prevent your labour from slowing down. Trying different positions can also be a distraction from the contractions. Some positions I found helpful were sitting on a birthing ball, leaning forward onto a bed, walking around and kneeling on all fours. Check out the Babycentre website for other positions to try.

2. Birthing Ball

I had to put the birthing ball on the list because it helped me so much. When the contractions became stronger I found rocking backward and forward or side to side on a birthing ball helped ease the pain. Sitting on the birthing ball also kept me upright which encouraged the baby to move downwards. Check out my guide to using a birthing ball for more detail.

3. Relaxation

Trying to relax when you are having contractions can seem impossible. But it is beneficial to keep calm as stress and anxiety can slow the progress of your labour. Try to do activities that you find relaxing such as having a warm bath or listening to music. In the early stages of my second labour, I had a snack, drank plenty of water, put on my TENS machine and had a short nap. Then as my labour progressed I used my birthing ball and listened to my hypnobirthing track. These are all activities that helped me to stay calm and positive.

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4. Hypnobirthing

I loved using hypnobirthing and found it really helped me to feel positive about my second labour. I learned how to use visualisation and breathing to work through the pain of contractions. It also built my confidence and helped me to feel in control of my body. Read my full guide to Hypnobirthing and its benefits here.

5. Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy oils can help in pregnancy and labour as inhaling the scent can affect your mood. I started using lavender oil during my second pregnancy to help me to sleep. I placed a few drops on a tissue next to my bed. When I used lavender oil I did feel calmer and more relaxed and I was able to get to sleep easier. I also used it during early labour to help me to remain calm and focus on my hypnobirthing. The Baby Centre website talks about other oils that are safe to use in pregnancy and labour.

6. TENS machine

A TENS machine is a natural way to relieve pain during early labour. It is a great distraction from the pain of contractions and can be used alongside other techniques such as hypnobirthing and a birthing ball. Read all about the pros and cons in my post How to use a TENS Machine in Early Labour

7. Water Birth

I wanted to experience a water birth as I have heard a lot of positives about them. I like the idea of giving birth in water however, I wasn’t able to have one for either of my births. Some of the pros I liked were the relaxing feel of being in warm water and feeling less exposed. Check out this post sharing everything I found out about water births when I was planning to have one and why I didn’t get to try it.  

8. Gas and Air

Gas and air is made up of half oxygen and half nitrous oxide. You breathe it through a mouthpiece which you hold in your hand until you need to use it. It takes about 20 seconds to work, so take slow deep breaths when you feel a contraction coming. It is a popular pain relief option because it has no side effects for the baby. Also, it is easy to use and can be used as much or little as you feel you need to. I used it in my first labour alongside a birthing ball and a TENS machine. A downside to using gas and air is it can make you feel sick, light-headed and also give you a dry mouth. To help ease these side effects I used a lip balm, drank plenty of water, used a moisturiser on my face and the midwife gave me anti-sickness medication.

Childbirth the Essential Guide

If you have enjoyed reading this check out The complete guide to childbirth. I share all of my experiences of Childbirth including a hospital checklist, labour stories and postpartum advice.

9. Pethidine

Pethidine is a drug given as an injection in your thigh. It takes about 20 minutes to work and then it can last between 2-4 hours. I used it for my first labour as it was long and I became tired during the stronger contractions. Pethidine did help me to relax and relieved the pain, so I could get rest before the pushing stage. It did have its cons as it left my thigh feeling bruised and numb. It is also important to not have it when you are near the pushing stage of labour as it can affect the baby’s breathing and the baby’s first feed.

10. Epidural

An epidural is a local anesthetic that numbs the nerves which carry pain signals to the brain. If you decide to have an epidural, an anesthetist numbs your back and inserts a small needle. Then a small tube is passed into your back and drugs are sent down this tube. It takes about 10 minutes to set up and another 10 minutes to start working. The pros are that it usually gives complete relief from the pain this can be good in a long labour if you need rest or are finding it particularly painful. Some cons to using an epidural are that it may need adjusting to work effectively, your legs can feel heavy, your blood pressure can drop or you may need an assisted delivery.

Pain relief for labour

I hope this has helped you to find out about some pain relief choices for your labour. Do your research, listen to other women and professionals but choose whichever pain relief choices are right for your labour. When you have some ideas on how you would like your labour to go, start to write your birth plan. If you need some help try reading my guide to writing a quick and easy birth plan.

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