Pain relief in labor – 2. Medications

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Your pain relief options

Doctors have a host of medicines to control pain ranging from over the counter medicines like paracetamol right up to very strong opiates like morphine.

Baby-Arabia will now look at the most common drugs used in labor for pain relief…

Gas and air (Entonox) for labor

This is a mixture of oxygen and nitrous oxide gas. Gas and air won’t remove all the pain, but it can help reduce it and make it more bearable. Many women like it because it’s easy to use and they control it themselves.

You breathe in the gas and air through a mask or mouthpiece, which you hold yourself. The gas takes about 15-20 seconds to work, so you breathe it in just as a contraction begins. It works best if you take slow, deep breaths.

Side effects

  • there are no harmful side effects for you or the baby
  • it can make you feel light-headed
  • some women find that it makes them feel sick, sleepy or unable to concentrate – if this happens, you can stop using it
  • If gas and air doesn’t give you enough pain relief, you can ask for a painkilling injection as well.

Pethidine injections in labor

This is an injection of the drug pethidine into your thigh or buttock to relieve pain. It can also help you to relax. Sometimes, less commonly, a drug called diamorphine is used.

It takes about 20 minutes to work after the injection. The effects last between two and four hours, so wouldn’t be recommended if you’re getting close to the pushing (second) stage of labor.

Side effects

There are some side effects to be aware of:

  • it can make some women feel woozy, sick and forgetful
  • if pethidine or diamorphine are given too close to the time of delivery, they may affect the baby’s breathing – if this happens, another drug to reverse the effect will be given
  • the drugs can interfere with the baby’s first feed