It is difficult to know, before labour starts, what pain relief will be best for you. Your community midwife and the midwife caring for you in labour can give you some information about the options available. These include:
- Self-help – calm breathing, relaxation, massage.
- Use of water – the use of water (hydrotherapy) has been shown to relieve the pain associated with labour. You can use a birthing pool at home and we have a pool at each hospital site which you can use if it is available when you arrive at the delivery suite. Please check when you telephone.
- Complimentary Therapies – advice about the use of complementary therapies, e.g. aromatherapy, reflexology, hypnosis and acupuncture can be sought from a person trained in each particular therapy.
- TENS – TENS is a system that passes a gentle electrical current through the nerves in your back. It can be particularly helpful for backache in the early stages of labour. These can be hired for a small fee from numerous outlets.
- Entonox (gas and air) – this is inhaled through a mask or mouthpiece. It may make you feel lightheaded and sometimes a little sick for a short time. It does not harm your baby and can be used at any time during labour and if in the birthing pool.
- Epidural – an epidural is carried out by an anaesthetist (a doctor specially trained to provide pain relief and drugs that make you go to sleep). Painkillers are given through a small tube (catheter) inserted into your lower back near the nerves in your spine. It may take up to 40 minutes for this type of painkiller to numb the nerves associated with the pain experienced in childbirth. Most women can have an epidural if they wish, but certain medical problems (spina bifida, previous surgery on your back or problems with blood clotting) may mean it is unsuitable for you.
- Opioids: morphine-like painkillers – Opioids include painkillers such as pethidine, as well as diamorphine All these morphine-like painkillers act in a similar way. Your midwife will be able to give you the Pethidine or diamorphine by injecting the opioid into a large muscle in your arm or leg. Every woman is different on how long the pain relief will last for, you can start to feel the effects within about half an hour and may last a few hours. Side effects – Opioids can often make you feel sleepy and a little nauseated and sometimes sick, we can however give you antisickness medication to help avoid this. Your midwife will discuss the full side effects with you at any time if you have any questions.