6 ways to manage labour pain

When it comes to labour, many women want to know how they will keep the pain under control. Midwife Pippa Hime unpacks the options available to you during labour.


Pain is expected in labour. In fact, it is normal. Fortunately, there are many ways to manage labour pain and keep you more comfortable. Here are your options.

Natural pain relief methods

Relaxation techniques

Relaxing in between contractions will ensure you conserve your energy for the final push.

Take a deep breath in through your nose and exhale long and slowly through your mouth. Often, one tends to hold the breath through something painful, but in labour it is important to breathe through the pain.

ALSO SEE: Hypnobirthing


Positioning and being active during labour is important. Using gravity to help move the baby down the birth canal, and applying pressure to the cervix, can speed up the labour process. Walking around, standing or using a birthing ball can all help the process along.

ALSO SEE: 6 alternative positions for childbirth 


Massage is a great way to help you relax and relieve the pain. Women tend to experience a great deal of pain in their lower back during labour. Using aromatherapy oil, like jasmine or lavender, can help to relieve muscle pain and relax you. A warm bath or shower can also help soothe pain.

ALSO SEE: Massage during labour – why and how to do it


When you go into labour, you can ask for a medical option to provide pain control. This is done in the form of an opiate injection called Pethidine. It is usually given with a drug called Aterax, which combats the nausea that can be associated with Pethidine and enhances its effects. However, this option is not possible if you are allergic to Opiates. This method can only be given in the early stages of labour. If given too late in labour, it can result in respiratory depression in the newborn. Pethidine can make you feel out of it and many women feel distanced from the actual labour process.

Epidural (regional block)

An epidural is the blocking of nerve impulses as they enter the spinal cord. Local anaesthesia is injected into the epidural space by a trained anaesthetist. There is loss of sensation, but you can still feel pressure resulting in the relief of pain from the level of the epidural down.

ALSO SEE: How to make the most of your epidural

Gas and air

This is a mix of nitrous oxide and oxygen, also known as “happy gas”. It is given via a mask during a contraction. When inhaled during a contraction, it takes the edge off the pain. It is very transient and has no side effects for the mother or baby.

How your partner can help:

  • Stay close to mom during labour
  • Help her into comfortable positions
  • Give her water to sip or ice to suck on
  • Use a cool cloth to wipe her forehead
  • Apply a warm compression to her lower back
  • Massage – anywhere she asks!
  • Help her focus on her breathing
  • Help her to apply relaxation techniques.
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