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7 Ways to Relieve Pain During Labour

7 Ways to Relieve Pain During Labour

By Paula Rumm

Pain Relief Options How It Works What To Expect Pros Cons
BREATHING is a non-drug pain relief option.  Patterned breathing is often taught in good ante-natal classes.Pain might be an indication that your body needs extra oxygen. Lack of sufficient oxygen in the muscles produces lactic acid, which when accumulated causes pain. So, pain is a signal to change your breathing rhythm. Used throughout labour, breathing helps to distract you from the pain. While breathing correctly helps to relax the tension in your muscles caused by pain, it also ensures that your body gets a good supply of energy. Patterned breathing helps to calm and soothe a labouring mother while ensuring her baby has enough oxygen supply. It puts mothers in control of the situation.There are no chemical side effects because it is drug free. Mothers may hyperventilate if they breathe too fast.
MASSAGE is a natural form of pain relief. This involves stimulating the skin nerve fibers to divert the sensations of labour pain. This is done by gently but firmly kneading, stroking or rolling the skin and can be used at any time during labour. Massaging the nerves help to release muscle tension, block pain and promote relaxation. Mothers are soothed, encouraged and relaxed by the touch. Relaxation in turn can increase blood circulation to muscles, helping to ensure they have adequate oxygen. It is inexpensive as anyone can massage the mother. Massaging may tire the masseur.
WATER birth has been used as a natural form of pain relief for many centuries. Some advanced hospitals have specially built in birth pools. Women are advised to wait until the second stage of labour before getting into the pool. When a baby is born in the water, doctors recommend that the baby is pulled above water for his first breath. The baby will need oxygen quickly, as the placenta may begin to separate within seconds of delivery. While immersing the mother in water can provide a great deal of relief during labour, it also helps to progress labour. Used in uncomplicated pregnancies, water produces more natural pain killers while reducing the pressure on the mother’s abdominal muscles and helping her relax. It’s a potent form of pain killer which relaxes the muscles. Birthing pools and skilled practitioners familiar with water birth are rarely available in Nigeria.
ENTONOX or Gas and Air is made up of colourless or odourless gas. Also known as ‘laughing gas’, this mixture of oxygen and nitrous oxide is used in the second stage of labour.  The mother breathes with an oxygen mask which has a two-way valve that takes in air and eliminates carbondioxide.  It quickly provides reasonable relief when inhaled as it dulls one’s perception of pain within seconds. It is generally considered safe under healthy situations. This is easily available in hospitals.It can be easily controlled by mothers. It can make a mother’s mouth dry, interfere with her breathing rhythm, cause lightheadedness and promote nausea.
POSITIONS provide comfort and pain relief. This can be used throughout labour to position the baby for delivery by walking and assuming different birth positions. A mother in labour may walk, squat, lie on her back, lie on her side, sit, or kneel with support. You may want to stick to one or any of these positions as you deem comfortable. An upright position is best, as it uses gravity to facilitate the descent of the baby while helping to relieve pain. Walking speeds up contraction by encouraging the baby to move to a better position.Positioning increases circulation which decreases pain.You can take whatever position that you find most comfortable. It does not give total relief.
EPIDURAL is an anaesthetic injected into the lower part of the mother’s spine. When injected, it numbs the nerves that feel the pain of contractions and can be used from early labour until fully dilated.A catheter may be used to empty your bladder as your mobility will be restricted. Abdomen and legs will start to feel numb and your blood pressure may drop. It is the only form of analgesia that gives total relief from pain. It is considered safe on mother and child. Very little goes to your baby because the drugs are injected into your back.It helps to control your blood pressure if it’s a little high while you are in labour. It may make you feel dizzy and sick when your blood pressure drops and will limit your mobility and birth positioning.Also, there is an increased risk of your baby being delivered by forceps.
TENSTranscutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation is an electrical device which delivers electrical impulses across the skin. This device which can be controlled by the mother works in two ways. One, it is used to block the nerve signals that carry pain messages to the brain. Two, it stimulates their body’s production of endorphins, a natural pain-relieving hormone.It can be used throughout labour. It might feel like a buzz of electrical sensation placed on the back. It can be used alone or combined with other forms of pain relief.It has no adverse effect.It is easy to use and operate, as mothers can control the intensity of the device.It does not alter the normal course of labour and can be used with other forms of pain relief.


While it has no side effects, one should practice using it before the due date with appropriate supervision.


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