Pain in labour
Pain in labour is normal, but it varies a lot. Some birthing mothers can manage pain in labour, and others want or need pain relief.
During pregnancy, it’s a good idea to talk with your midwife or doctor about labour pain and what you can do to cope with it. They can tell you about your pain relief options, including the benefits, side effects and possible complications of different options. This way you’ll know what to expect and you can say what you prefer.
You can also ask questions and get more information about labour pain at antenatal classes.
Your pain relief options will depend on your preferences and needs, your stage of labour and other health considerations for you and baby. Once labour starts, you might need to be open to suggestions from your midwife or doctor.
Natural pain relief during labour
Non-medical or natural pain relief options might include:
- meditation, breathing and relaxation techniques
- heat packs
- touch and massage
- water (hot shower or bath)
- positions like standing or leaning on a bed, table or birth ball
- a TENS machine
- hypnotherapy, reiki or acupressure
- sterile water injections.
Also, a calm environment can be a form of natural pain relief. For example, soft lighting can help you manage pain during labour and birth. You might be able to use dimmer switches or lamps to adjust the lighting in the room. Soothing music might help you relax. It’s also OK to ask if you can close doors or draw curtains for privacy.
Having a support person with you during labour can help you to manage pain, help your labour to progress and reduce the chance of birth interventions.
Medical pain relief during labour
Medical pain relief options might include:
Some types of pain relief need close checks and follow-up by medical staff to make sure that you and baby are OK. Some options might lead to other birth interventions. Talk to your midwife or doctor during pregnancy to find out more.
Pain relief options in different birth settings
Most pain relief options are available at public hospitals and private hospitals.
Note that some private hospitals don’t offer water births.
Birth centres and homebirths offer a natural approach to birth, so there are fewer medical pain relief options than in hospital settings. It’s likely that the midwives will get you to focus on relaxation, movement, water options and other forms of natural pain relief.
If you’re at a birth centre or having a homebirth and you need an epidural or other birth intervention, you’ll probably be transferred to a hospital birthing suite.
It’s a good idea to tour your hospital or birth centre. You can find out what the birthing rooms look like and see the equipment and facilities.
After the birth, your pain relief options will vary. Many birthing mothers who have a vaginal birth don’t need strong pain relief after the birth. If you plan to breastfeed, check with your doctor or midwife that any pain relief medication you’re using is safe for baby too.