Pain in labour is normal. Some women can manage pain in labour, but others need non-medical and/or medical pain relief.
Most pain relief options are available at public hospitals. 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.
During pregnancy, talk to your midwife or doctor about what pain relief you can have. Find out about the benefits, side effects and possible complications, so that you know what to expect and can say what you prefer. You can also ask questions and get more information about pain relief at birth classes.
Non-medical or ‘natural’ pain relief options might include:
- meditation, breathing and relaxation techniques
- heat packs
- water (hot shower or bath)
- transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)
- hypnotherapy, Reiki or acupressure.
Medical pain relief options might include:
- nitrous oxide
Your pain relief options will depend on what you want, what you need, your stage of labour and other health considerations for you and baby. You might need to be open to suggestions from the people caring for you.
If you have a caesarean, you’ll have one of three types of anaesthetic so you don’t feel any pain during the operation:
- A spinal anaesthetic is most common for a planned caesarean. You’re awake during the operation.
- An epidural is more likely to be used in labour and for an emergency caesarean during labour. You’re awake during the operation.
- A general anaesthetic will be used if you can’t have a spinal or epidural anaesthetic, or in some cases if your baby needs to be born very quickly, or you need it. With a general anaesthetic, you’re asleep during the operation.
After the birth, your pain relief options will vary. Many women 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.