All women are terrified of being in labour. For some women giving birth goes relatively easy and quickly, for others it may turn into a real nightmare that lasts couple of days. More women, nowadays, are opting for a pain relief during contractions and delivery. It is totally up to you whether you would want to use one.
You might decide that you go all the way naturally without any pain relief and change your mind later, during the actual process of giving birth. So it’d be wise to know what kind of options you have got to choose from. Here are some most common pain relief’s that hospitals offer:
This is a natural way of reducing pain. Some women find that being in water during early stages of labour takes some lower back pressure off the muscles, which reduces the pain from contractions. Many women decide to stay in water during later stages of labour and some even choose to give birth in a birthing pool.
TENS (Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation)
A TENS machine is a small electronic, battery operated device which you attach to your lower and mid back with sticky electrode pads.
The machine sends a very small electric current through the pads, which should interact the pain signals, lowering the discomfort and pain that contractions cause. The current can be turned up during contractions and then decreased once the pain subsides.
Many modern machines have a ‘booster button’ setting which, at the onset of a contraction, can be activated for an increase in pain combating power.
Some women find TENS machines to be very effective, while for others they don’t do much. The devices can usually be hired from the hospital, but you’d better check first.
These machines are relatively cheap to buy yourself. Just make sure that you buy the right one, as there are lots of different TENS machines. Buy the one that is specially made for labour.
Gas and Air (Entonox)
This is probably the most popular nowadays. This is also known as entonox, and is a combination of nitrous oxide and oxygen that is breathed in via a pipe. Women can breathe it in whenever she feels that she needs to.
The main effect of it probably not to reduce the pain, but to distract from the pain. It is a light option of a pain relief during labour, and some women tend to use just gas and air through the whole process.
An epidural is an injection of pain relief drugs through a catheter direct into the lumbar region, and is extremely effective at blocking pain. The injection must be performed by a specialised anaesthetist, although the drug levels can then be subsequently topped up by the experienced midwife for as long as it is required.
Epidural does help with loss of pain, but it also leads to a loss of sensation. You are loosing the sensation below your back, your legs will feel numb and the entire birth will probably have to be carried out lying down.
It is great way to fight the pain, but keep in mind that epidurals are only available in obstetrician-led maternity units, not in birth centres, midwife-led units or for home births. And not everyone can have an epidural. Speak to your doctor and discuss any medical condition that might affect whether you can have one.
This is an opium drug, quite similar to morphine. It is given in a liquid form as an injection, usually in the muscle, in your buttocks. It helps to most women, but it is more a sedative drug, than a painkiller.
So you may start feeling a bit sleepy, drowsy and sometimes disorientated. It works rather fast and lasts for about 3-4 hours. As this type of pain relief is quite safe for mothers-to-be, it can have a slight effect on a baby. Your baby may be a bit sleepy for the first few days after giving birth. Sometimes you will even need to wake them up for feeding.
It is completely up to you what type of pain relief you would like to choose. Most midwives recommend to start with less invasive choices such as TENS machines and entonox and move up to epidural or pethidine only if there is a necessity later on. If you have any questions or concerns please discuss them with your midwife or doctor.