Managing Pain During Labour

Knowing your pain relief options will enable you to make empowered choices during your labour.

Treating pain in labour is complex, with no single solution that will work for all women. Here is a breakdown of the natural and medical options available:

Natural pain relief

  • Homeopathic labour remedies such as Rescue Birth & Recovery (available from major pharmacies) have no side effects and can work decrease the pain and duration of labour, help to raise the pain threshold, and address fear and tearfulness.
  • Touch therapies like labour massage, reflexology and acupuncture are particularly effective.
  • A TENS machine (transcutaneous nerve stimulation) is a device that is attached to your back and belly and can interrupt pain impulses by travelling along nerve pathways to the brain.
  • Emotional support from your doula, midwife and/or birth partner can go a long way to reducing anxiety, thereby influencing your perception of pain.

Medical pain relief

  • Pethidine is an opiate drug, often given as an injection. For Mom, it can cause nausea, low blood pressure and drowsiness, and it can slow down labour. For Baby, it can affect respiration after birth, make him drowsy and impact breastfeeding negatively.
  • Hydroxyzine (Aterax) is given as an injection and acts as a tranquilliser and sedative. Adverse effects include drowsiness, dry mouth and dizziness.
  • Nitrous oxide (‘laughing gas’) is given via a mouth piece or mask. It can cause light-headedness and tingling sensations. 
  • Epidural anaesthesia numbs the lower body. It comes with the increased risks of perineal tearing, C-section, fetal distress, longer labour, needing synthetic hormones to strengthen contractions, and Baby being unable to turn into the correct position.