Pain Relief Options In Labour
Childbirth is painful. Of course the reward is a priceless treasure, but many women are concerned about the pain they will feel during the process. Fortunately, there are ways to ease or eliminate the pain of labour.
Here are four popular options you will find here in Australia. We will dive into the pros and cons to help you consider which may be the ideal option for you.
1. TENS Machine
Let’s start with a drug-free option first: the TENS Machine. TENS stands for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation. Electrical impulses are sent to the nerves simply by adhering electrodes to the body. These essentially numb the nerves, so the pain does not feel severe.
There is no harm for the mother or the baby when using a TENS machine, and it allows you to move around freely. However, since we are talking about electronic machines, a water birth (or even a warm shower for calming the pain) is not possible.
2. Nitrous Oxide
You may have heard of “laughing gas” or “happy gas” as a method of pain relief. The scientific name for this anesthetic is nitrous oxide. Since the 1930s, nitrous oxide has been used as a pain relief option for labour.
The woman simply breathes in the gas through a mouthpiece and the effects reach the brain within 15 seconds. Both the mother and the baby are able to eliminate the nitrous oxide quickly without affecting the labour.
Keep in mind that less than half of women report that nitrous oxide adequately helps with the pain. Some women experience nausea, vomiting, drowsiness, or confusion.
3. Morphine or Pethidine
Both morphine and pethidine are opioid pain relievers; morphine is natural and pethidine is synthetic. Each is typically given by injection during the early stages of labour.
Not only can these medications help relieve the pain, but they can also help you relax if worry and anxiety from the entire experience is causing problems.
Morphine has been shown to be, most likely, a more effective pain relief option during labour. It also has a lesser chance of leaving you feeling drowsy or sick than pethidine (though this could absolutely still happen).
4. Epidural Anaesthesia
Let’s finish with what is considered “the most effective pain relief available to women in labour.” An epidural is a local anaesthetic, which means it only affects the part of the body that needs pain relief during the labour. Your mind stays fully alert during the process.
When receiving an epidural, a small tube is injected into the lower part of your spine at various stages of labour. In general, the pain at this point becomes very minimal or even nonexistent. Side effects can include: lowered blood pressure, headache, weakness, fever, and injury to the nervous system.
The above information does not take the place of a medical consultation and is intended for informational purposes only. Please seek further advice if your symptoms continue or worsen.
Categorised in: Obstetrics
This post was written by Dr Anu Kaur