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What is the best pain relief in labour?

Oct 02, 2019

It’s VERY natural to seek pleasure and avoid pain. In everyday life, feeling pain is a signal that something needs to change. In fact, it’s essential to our survival to fix a pain that is life-threatening.

HOWEVER… in normal labour, strong sensations are to be expected and don’t necessarily need to be ‘fixed’ or numbed.

Many people hope to have a natural birth and there are many advantages to choosing to have an unmedicated labour.

What are the benefits of natural birth?

  • Potential to feel more empowered by the experience
  • The sense of accomplishment can also positively effect parenting
  • Can remain active and try different positions which helps with a positive experience
  • Being upright  and mobile can help shorten the length of labour and significantly reduce pain
  • Less need for other interventions which helps with quicker recovery
  • It can be healthier, safer and less stressful for the baby
  • There is more chance of getting breastfeeding off to a good start
  • Natural endorphins are released which help make labor more enjoyable
  • Oxytocin is released naturally which helps shorten labour and helps with bonding and breastfeeding

If you’re planning a natural birth it’s extremely important to learn about labour, and all the options available, to help you have a more positive experience.


What are some natural pain relief options?


Having positive sensations like massage can help block or reduce painful sensations in labour. Massage is a relaxing way to reduce tension and help with the release of your love hormone, oxytocin. There are also some amazing acupressure points that can help reduce pain or help labour along.

Warm shower or bath

Using heat and warm water in labour can feel amazing. It helps provide a comforting distraction and helps soften and relax the body. It can actually help reduce the length of labour too.

Breathing techniques

Using your breath can help shift your attention away from the contractions. If you can focus on your breathing, you can quiet your thoughts and this will help you cope with the strong sensations better.

Being Active

Moving around and changing positions in labour is a really effective way to handle the intensity.  Being upright also allows gravity to be on your side when birthing.

TENS machine

A TENS machine is a small portable machine that can help stimulate your own release of endorphins. Many people find it very effective for pain relief, especially for back pain in labour.

What are some medical pain relief options for labour?

Sometimes medical pain relief is the best option if the birthing person is not coping with the intensity of labour. This may happen if someone has been in labour for a long time and become exhausted. Pain relief like pethidine or an epidural can allow the parent-to-be to rest and regain strength.


Nitrous gas or ‘laughing gas’ can be breathed in through a mask or mouthpiece. It can help reduce anxiety and pain. It can be used at any stage of labour and the effects wear off as soon you stop breathing the gas. For many people, nitrous can work really well to alleviate the intensity of labour while for others it just makes them feel dizzy and not have any real effect on their pain levels. 



An injection of pethidine can help the labouring person relax. For some it is an effective form of pain relief. However, it may make some people feel disorientated and sick and it can make newborns sleepy and cause feeding difficulties.



An epidural is an injection of anaesthetic in to the space around the spinal nerves in the lower back. It is very effective at blocking pain.

As with all medical procedures, there are risks. The epidural may only partially relieve the pain or may not work at all. It also increases the risk of the baby needing to be born with forceps, vacuum or via a cesarean.


A final word...

There are many benefits to having an unmedicated birth. It can help the mother to feel more positive and empowered by her experience which can have flow-on effects to how well she bonds and breastfeeds her baby.

It’s critical to become aware of all the options available and to also know that sometimes medical pain relief is the best option, particularly if the birthing person is not coping or certain interventions have become necessary.

Do you want to feel more confident about birth?

Download this free natural birth checklist that covers practical tips and natural suggestions for the three stages of labor. Start feeling more confident about your birth plan.


Learn the 3 keys to LOVING your birth and beyond. You can implement them today!