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Pain Relief During Labour

Updated: Sep 16, 2021

Mother to Be using Gas and Air during contractions

Non-Medical Pain Relief

- TENS Machine

- Sterile Water Injections

- Hydrotherapy

- Hypnobirthing

Medicated Pain Relief

- Gas & Air

- Pethidine/Diamorphine

- Epidural

TENS Machine

TENS (Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) is a handheld device that has sticky patches attached to the lower back. It releases mild electrical pulses which stimulates the nerves allowing for a release in pain during back labour. When using a TENS machine, you may feel a buzzing, tingling or pricking sensation. TENS can be used in combination with other pain relief methods except hydrotherapy. It has no known side effects for mother or baby. It also does not prevent the mother from movement during labour.

Sterile Water Injections

Many women experience pain in their back during labour commonly referred to as back labour which can also continue through the resting phase between contractions. The procedure involves a small amount of sterile water (0.1ml to 0.2 ml) injected under the skin at four locations on the lower back. The injection causes an intense sting sensation like a wasp sting that then eases in about 30 seconds. As the sting eases the pain within the back eases too. It does not ease pain from contractions but only to relieve the back pain which may allow you to cope through your labour. Sterile water injections can provide relief for up to 2 hours. There is no known side effects to mother or baby and does not prevent the mother from staying mobile through labour.


Hydrotherapy is the immersion in water either under a running shower or in a tub. Warm water helps relax the muscles for a more productive labour. If you are a suitable candidate this lowers the risk of needing medical interventions and also helps as pain relief. Movement within the water is also beneficial to moving baby down the birth canal. This option of pain relief is only suitable to low risk pregnancies.


Hypnobirthing is a mindset used to relax you through your labour. By setting up a relaxing setting assists in this form of birth for example, dim lighting, gentle music and affirmations. Used in combination with hydrotherapy, rebozo, counter pressure and birthing aids. Your training your mind to perceive pain as pressure and to trust in your body.

Gas & Air

Gas & air also known as happy or laughing gas is a useful tool to take the edge of during labour. Gas and air can be used in combination with other pain relief methods. It is fast acting so relief and also wears off quickly. It is safe for you and your baby and the increased oxygen may even be beneficial. It is known to make you feel light-headed and sometimes nauseas.


Administered as an injection into the thigh or buttock or intravenously, it is an opioid pain relief medication. It takes about 20 minutes to feel the effects and can last up to 4 hours. It can make you feel nausea's and forgetful. If administered too close to delivery it can interfere with baby's breathing and the ability to feed.


Epidural is administered into the lining of the spinal cord and disrupt the transmission of pain signals between the uterus and the brain. A successful epidural will relieve all pain. The use of an epidural does generally prevent the mother from having mobility during birth depending on what medication is used and the dosage. Epidurals can only be used in hospitals as an anaesthetist is the only one who can administer it. Because it is an anaesthetic you will be required to have constant fetal monitoring. Epidurals do increase the risk of having an assisted delivery as the muscles are weakened. As long as the baby is showing no signs of distress your OBGYN or midwife may wait longer for the baby to move down the birth canal before commencing pushing.

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