Pain Relievers Used During Labour

Although labour is not usually pain free, the pain does have a purpose; every contraction brings you one step nearer the birth of your baby. However determined you may be now not to have pain relief, do try to keep an open mind.

These are the few options available to relieve the pain:

1. Entonox (gas and Air): A mixture of oxygen and nitrous oxide, which gives considerable, though not complete pain relief.  It is useful in the first stage. You inhale the gas through a hand held mask, attached by tubing to a cylinder. The gas takes about half a minute to reach a peak, so you need to take a few deep breathes of the gas at the beginning of a contraction.

Effect: The gas only takes the edge off the pain, so this may not be enough. You may feel light-headed or sick while inhaling.

2. Pethidine: This drug is often given fairly during the first stage of labour, especially if you are anxious or finding it hard to relax.Pethidine will probably be given by injection in your buttock or thigh. It takes about 20minutes to work and its effects last for two to three hours.

Effect: On you, some women feel calm, relaxed and a bit sleepy, but still aware of what is going on, others complain of being out of control and feel like drunk. You may be sick, and probably won’t feel like moving around very much. On the baby, if pethidine is given too close to birth, it can slow down his breathing and make him sleepy. However slow breathing can be easily corrected after delievery and sleepiness will soon wear off.

3. TENS: This lessens pain and stimulates the body’s natural system of pain relief through small impulses of electric current on your back. It helps to practice with the TENS machine in the last month before the birth. Four pads containing electrodes are stuck on to your back over the nerves that supply the womb. These pads are joined by wires to a hand held control, with which you regulate the strength of the electric current.

Effect: TENS lessens pain for some women, especially if used from early labour, others say it is no help at all.

4. Epidural: It is an anesthetic that relieves pain by temporarily numbing the nerves in the lower body. It can be especially good in labour. Not all hospitals offer epidurals. It must be timed very carefully, so it’s effects have worn off by the second stage.

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