Thank you for your enquiry. It is very important to prepare yourself for the labour and birth and it is good to be aware of your choice of pain relief. The trick is to try to cope with a certain amount of discomfort for as long as you can so that when you do receive the pain relief it is effective and can last further into the labour and you also don’t exhaust all your options too early. In early labour the best form of pain relief is walking, position changes, controlled breathing and warm showers or baths. Remembering also to rest when needed and to eat small amounts regularly. Many women use these techniques very effectively throughout labour. Changing positions and trying something different as soon as they feel that they are more uncomfortable. If a woman feels that these methods are not working and they are in a hospital there is an option of nitrous gas. This is inhaled during the contraction and then not used between contractions. It tends to also distract and ‘remove’ a woman form the discomfort of labour. It is a very safe form of pain relief as it is short term and doesn’t affect the baby and is controlled by the woman. If a woman feels that she needs something even stronger the next option is a narcotic injection. This is usually Pethidine. It is a generalized injection that tries to relieve some of the pain and it may make the woman feel drowsy. This injection does affect the baby but it is usually given several hours before a birth is expected so the effects are worn off when the baby is born. It can also make the baby a bit sleepy after birth.
The final option for pain relief is an epidural anaesthetic. This is a local anaesthetic that is injected just outside a woman’s spinal cord and it numbs the lower half of her body. This is a very effective form of pain relief as it removes all sensation. It doesn’t usually affect the baby. It does, however, lead to a much longer birth and a much higher chance of an assisted birth either by forceps or vacuum. The reduced sensation stops the contractions being as effective and it also stops a woman being able to push effectively.
<a href="http://www.nswmidwives.com.au/">NSW Midwives Association</a>
Note: This information is not designed to replace that of your health professional.