Being in water can help you to relax and make the contractions seem less painful. The water needs to be kept at a comfortable temperature, but not above 37.5C and your temperature will be monitored throughout.
TENS machines can also be useful in the early stages of labour at home. They work by stimulating the body to produce endorphins which are the body’s own natural painkillers.
Gas and air (Enternox) is a mixture of oxygen and nitrous oxide and is breathed in and out through a mouthpiece. You start to breathe it in as the contraction begins using slow, deep breaths. Although it doesn’t take all of the pain away, it can make you more comfortable. It can make some women feel light headed and occasionally nauseous. Because gas and air is short-term relief it is out of the system very quickly and it has no effects on the baby.
A Pethidine injection can also be given to help you relax. The effects last between 2-4 hours. Because it helps you to relax, some women find they feel quite sleepy. Usually an anti-sickness medicine is given at the same time as the injection. It’s not recommended to have a pethidine injection too close to the birth as it can affect baby’s breathing. Your midwife will let you know if it is suitable for you to have an injection, depending on your stage of labour. Having pethidine in labour can also sometimes make your baby sleepier in the first 24 hours which can have an effect on early feeding.
An epidural is the one form of pain relief which should provide complete relief. An anaesthetist will come to discuss this with you and perform it if you choose to have one. The anaesthetist will use a local anaesthetic to numb an area of your back and insert a very thin tube into your back which stays in place during your labour and provides the drugs to the nerves which carry pain impulses to the uterus. Your baby will need to be monitored and you will require a drip if you choose to have an epidural. Epidurals may prolong the second stage of labour, and your midwife and the anaesthetist will discuss if this with you in more detail.