Pros and cons of pain relief

Wondering which sort of pain relief you might choose, and considering what to put down on your birth plan?

We help you decide by looking at the pros and cons of each method.  For more information about each method of pain relief, follow the links below.

Gas and air

Gas and air, or Entonox is 50% oxygen, 50% nitrous oxide. You breathe the gas in through a mouthpiece or mask.


  • You are in control.
  • The oxygen is good for your baby.
  • The gas doesn’t linger in your system.


  • It’s only a mild form of pain relief.
  • May make you feel slightly sick.

Find out more about Entonox (Gas and air).


Injection into your bottom or thigh. Takes about 20 mins to be effective and lasts for two to four hours.


  • May help you relax and rest if labour is long and difficult.
  • Some women find it helps ‘distance’ them from the pain.


  • May make you feel dizzy, sick or 'detached' from what's happening.
  • May make baby tired and slow to respond.


Injection into your lower back numbs your body from the waist down so you don’t feel the contractions. It takes 20 minutes to set up and has an immediate effect.


  • It can mean you feel no pain during labour.
  • Very effective form of pain relief in labour.


  • Can increase length of labour.
  • May cause sudden fall in blood pressure.
  • May cause headache after delivery.
  • Assisted delivery more likely.


A small machine with pads that stick onto your back and stimulate your nerves with small, safe amounts of electric current.


  • Useful for backache during labour.
  • You are in control.
  • Can be used at home.
  • No adverse effects on you or your baby.


  • You may need more pain relief than TENS can provide.
  • You need to hire a TENS as few hospitals have them.



Hi,Im 32 weeks with our first baby due on sept 11th, very exited but nervous at the same time, i hope to have gas and air for as much of the birth as possible and would like a water birth. i am however keeping an open mind and will have an epidural if i find i cant cope. good luck to you all hope everyone has a safe delivery.
Hi all, i had my first baby 4 years ago now and had gas and air and diamorphine, ( it works like pethadine but doesn't make you feel sick apparently) im now expecting my second little one and will hopefully be choosing the same, it really took the edge off my pains but i still felt everything it was more manageable, as some other posts describe, labour is what were here for and birth, your body naturally does it, so you CAN do it!! good luck to all you expectant mummies x x x
Ladies, I'm an anaesthetist and 27weeks pregnant. I've looked after many women in labour and have placed many epidurals -and always been thanked! Labour is different for each and every one of us because we have different shaped pelvises and different shaped babies. It can vary from birth to birth. The best advice is to have an open mind and bear in mind what works for one person may totally disagree with your system. With regard to epidurals, they do NOT cause long term back pain. Studies comparing women that have had epidurals versus women that haven't show no difference in incidence of back pain. Sadly going though pregnancy and then labour puts a huge strain on our ligaments that soften and usually that's the cause of longer term back pain. Do your homework then be prepared to ch
hi i had my first baby girl and i had natural and paintful childbirth,now with second one i will do the same only natural no gas no air and no any others.the best its the natural childbirth not everytime you can fell that felling .
I have to recommend Natal Hypnotherapy too. I listened to the pregnancy relaxation cd almost every night from about 7 months pregnant and can't recommend it highly enough (especially when used in conjunction with the book or a course). My labour didn't go to plan at all, but the skills I had learned from listening to the CD made the whole experience a pleasant one, and make me excited to have another baby and go through it all again. One thing the CD does is make you imagine lying on a beach while you are in the state of deep relaxation, by repeating this every night or however often you do it, while you are in labour all you need to do to get back into that deep relaxation state is to picture yourself back on that beach (or use any of the other cues that you have practiced while listening to the tape). When you are in this relaxed state, contractions feel like pressure rather than pain. When my contractions first started I had been in hospital for 24 hours already (being induced) and for a while I forgot to do the relaxation and felt what contractions feel like when you are resisting them. It was only once I started thinking that they were getting too painful that I remembered to do my relaxation so I really do know that it works. The feeling changed almost instantly from almost unbearable, to easily managable. I still use the beach cue now if I am feeling anxious or can't sleep and it still works (my son is 8 months old). I credit this CD and the information from the books for my relaxing and enjoyable pregnancy, my lovely birth experience, and for my super chilled out baby.
Why isn't Natal Hypnotherapy mentioned here? It was absolutely invaluable to me. I had a natural home birth for my first baby because I was well prepared. I used the 'Natal Hypnotherapy' Effective Home Birth Preparation: Self Hypnosis CD Programme for Home Birth. The midwives could not believe how calm I was and my mum, who was very sceptical about it is now a firm convert. Why rely on medication when there is another way. It ios not widelt known enough that you cn effectively prepare for a good birth. All the people I know who have really done their homework and practiced have had good births.. I practiced everyday for 10 weeks using the CD, either 15 or 40 minutes a day and it worked for me. I had a battery of toots to deal with the pain. The CD teaches you to welcome each sensation and to remain calm and focused. It is invaluable.
What about Hynotherapy as pain relief? So many people have negative birth stories to tell but I am convinced that my birth went so well because I prepared effectively for it. I did not just leave it to chance or hand over the control of my birth to doctors. I would others to do the practice as this course recommends in order to give your baby the very best start possible. Before doing the course and reading widely about the natural process of giving birth, I guess that I had believed the idea which I think is prevalent in society that somehow humans weren’t made for giving birth; that we were somehow deficient in this area! However, after learning all I could about birth and doing all the hypnotherapy practice as the course and the CD recommended when I went into labour, I was very confident that my body would be able to birth my baby, just as my body knew how to grow my baby. I knew that my body was perfectly designed to have my baby, if only I would relax! I had the natural, home birth of my dreams without medication. After being terrified of giving birth after watching ‘One Born Every Minute’, a friend recommended ‘Natal Hypnotherapy’ to me. I booked on Dot Parry’s course in Manchester! My husband and I did the ‘Natal Hypnotherapy’ day workshop when I was 27 weeks and from thereon I practiced with the CD almost every day for either 40 minutes or 15 minutes depending on how much time I had. As the workshop recommended, I wrote out some affirmations that resonated well with me and posted them in various places round my house. Affirmations such as ‘All I need to do is relax and breathe’ or ‘I know my baby feels my calmness and confidence’. I had my favourite chilled tunes playing in the background throughout my active labour and the lights in the room were dimmed with fairy lights creating a calm atmosphere. The water was invaluable but the self-hypnosis gave me absolute confidence that I could do it. The Natal Hypnotherapy gave me a battery of tools to help me relax. Because I was well prepared and had practiced the techniques, these tools came to me easily and naturally when I was in labour. There were several different visualisations that I used in conjunction with my breathing, for example imagining looking out towards a beautiful red sunset across the sea. I imagined that the sea was a little choppy but with my outbreath, I was able breathe out a thread of golden light to calm the sea so it lay perfectly still. I also imagined a dial which could turn the intensity of the contraction down from 10 to 1. It gave my mind something to do other than panicking or focusing on the sensations. The ‘natal hypnotherapy’ explained about the ‘self-doubt phase’ where many women think ‘I can’t do this!’. While it never occurred to me that I couldn’t do it, the sensations were definitely stronger than I ever imagined! Despite this, I found that I had all the tools to help me deal with the pain. I had read Ina May Gaskin’s book ‘A Guide to Childbirth’ which talked about ‘orgasmic births’. The ‘natal hypnotherapy’ course also promoted the idea that the sensations could be enjoyed. After each contraction, I knew the importance of welcoming each sensation as opposed to dreading it as I knew that it was bringing me closer to my baby. My husband Dave was taught on the course how to help me and how to remind me to be calm using the 3-2-1 relax cue and how to use, touch, massage and breathing. I know that some men can feel helpless during the birthing process but the course gave us tools to ensure that he was an invaluable part of the process. The midwives in attendance couldn’t believe how calm I was, especially for my first baby. My mum also attended the birth. Initially, she had been very against me having a home birth and was very sceptical about the benefits of using hypnotherapy for birth but she is now a firm convert and tells everyone how wonderful it was and how calm I was! Matilda Rose was born on Christmas Eve, 5 days before her due date, a perfectly healthy 6lbs 3oz. My wonderful midwife, Hayley Greenwood knew the techniques that I was using and was very supportive. She guided me only to trust my instincts and didn’t give me any commands to ‘push’. Because of this, I took my time and I did not even tear. Having such a smooth confident delivery without medication enabled me to be up and about very quickly. People couldn’t believe it when I put her in the sling on Boxing Day and went for a walk with my husband, our first family outing!
Hiya all!! Im due 16th of may with my second child and im so scared of the pain. first time round was 2yrs ago with my little boy and i had gas n air then pethidine, yes i think it helps alot with the pain but it makes you drowsey and not quite with it. i want to be more awake this time and not to sure how much pain i will be able to handle. iv seen alot of one born every minute and most woman on there that have epidurals look so relaxed with no pain and make it look easy! im not looking for the easy option but im considering having one, im just scared of 1.needles 2.later in life back problems and 3. not being able to push baby out properly as you have no feeling below the waste. oh... think i can only try my best and see what the outcome is at the time! never know, this time round could be easyer lol. wish everyone the very best x x x
I had an epidural with my first two children the youngest is now 8. This time round I am not planning to have any pain relief, but if the labour prolong then I'll may have the Pethidine and that only if the pain gets too overwhelming.
I had a epidural with my 1st then with my 2nd just gas and air now 3rd due in just over 7 weeks and hoping to use tens and gas and air =)
Am hoping I just have gas and air.
Im 30weeks pregnant and im hopeing to just have gas and air but even then i want to hold it off as long as possible... i see it as, animals can do it without pain relief, surely women can :)... but i probably wont be saying that when the time comes haha
I had an epidural when i ad my son 15 yrs ago & have suffered with lower back pain on and off ever since, now im pregnant again n not sure weather to have the epidural again or not as not sure how bad things will get if i have it 2nd time around.
I had pethidine with my 1st plus gas and air...found it great, it helped Me relax and get some much needed sleep, didn't slow down my labour. With my 2nd stay home as long as possible..... went in to hospital had gas And air he was born within an hour.... I'm due again in June with baby no.3...... I'm hoping for just gas and air But if I need more I will have it.
i definately would like gas and air to begin with then epidural when it becomes too painful.had a forceps delivery with my first born.
hi all mums. I had pethidine with my 1st born and I really think it slowed down the labour as i was so detached also I wasn't allowed in the pool after I had it. This time Im trying gas and air and tens
Pethidine is not available at home births due to it being an opiate - does anyone know the name of the substitute drug they bring out instead?
Thank you for th helpful information.
Thank you for th helpful information.
I listened to a birth preparation hypnotherapy CD recommended in my antenatal class from (http://www.natalhypnotherapy.co.uk/) and found this really helped me manage pain during labour. I listened to the CD everyday for approx 5 weeks before the birth of my daughter in May. The CD helped me relax in the final weeks of pregnancy and helped me get over any nerves I had re. labour. My labour went fairly smoothly, I used a TENS machine at home (which was great) and didn't get to hospital until I was 8cm. I gave birth to my daughter naturally and with very little pain relief and I am sure this was down to the hynotherapy. I just felt relaxed and in control and really surprised myself. I highly recommend anybody nervous about labour pain to give this a try.
great help..i think now i can take a better decision
great help..i think now i can take a better decision
Thanks for the useful tips,i'll look them up to know which is most safer.
Hi quick question has any1 actually used a TENS machine and how well do they work???
Thanks for the info..think I am going for gas n air!
Thanks for the infor supplied it made choosing my pain relief a lot easier
Thanks for the explanations and info. Think when it comes to the day, I will see how it goes but right now thinking gas and air but you never know.
thank you for very useful information
thank u for your information
I gave birth to my 1st son nearly 5 months ago & to say I was petrified about the birthing process - mostly a fear of the pain - is an understatement. I read for hours about the different types of pain relief available, but when it came to the crunch, I managed on gas and air and a shot of pethidine. My advice is to take each contraction as it comes and keep an open mind...take the pain relief if you need it - there's no need to suffer!!
ive heard and seen ladies in and out of my family saying that if u get an epidural then for the rest of ur life ur back causes u problems all the time....and u cnt lift heavy objects n stuff
P.S If you are using gas and air, bring lipbalm as it makes your lips very dry and cracked.
For my first baby I had just gas and air - I tried the tens machine but took it off as it didn't seem to do anything. I had rapid labour which was agony. Due to a development of proteins in my blood I have been told this time round I am to have an epidural. I'm so pleased the decision has been taken from me and am looking forward to a less painful delivery. My advice - do what you want, you don't get any gold medals for using less pain relief, though do be aware that pethidine will give a very spaced out feeling which you may not want when you just want to push the baby out. Good luck to all.
wow, I'm currantly 16wks on my second, i had gas and air, then epidural on my first.(shes now 13yo). Im gunna try gas and air and hope what other people say is true and that the second birth is quicker. and i agree with Beddard, if more is needed i will ask, or scream out for it. wishing all the best to you all. xxx
I am pregnant with my 2nd child. My 1st was born 3 years ago and I had pethidine and I don't remember a thing. Which I suppose is good in a way, however I am wanting to try and keep it as natural as possible this time round. Saying that if I cant then I am not ruling out the possibility I will be screaming for drugs at some point.
hello ladys i am a 23 year old mum and this is my 4th baby: i personaly have only ever had gas and air in labour. I have alwase wanted as little pain relief as possible but i will never rule anything out! just as every 1 is difrent so is every pregnancy and labour! hope this helps!! tace care and safe pregnancys and labour 2 all!!! xx
This is my 1st & im due aug 23rd, quite nervous and want to just have gas and air as i dont feel comfortable with the side effects of the pain relief. Epidural has been known to give life time back pain after birth and I dont like the idea of Pethidine making my baby less responsive and drowsy. Need some reassurance as im sceptical.
This is my 2nd baby i had my first 10 years ago and im so exited but scared of the pain again as i can still sort of remember the pain, but i have always said i wouldnt have an epidural but after watching one born every minute it made it look so easy i am def giving it a second thought
is there a diffrence between a epidural and a mobile epidural does anyone know? xx
shoes22, my due date is the 5th may too! Im on the 32nd week and am very nervous but sooo glad its nearly all over, be nice to feel like myself again! u'll be fine :-) xx
What about the other options?!
My first is due mid April and have done considerable research which has helped combat the nerves and fear, in fact I'm feeling pretty good about the whole thing right now. Personally my birth plan starts with low level pain relief as ideal - Visualisation & breathing techniques along with TENS until I go into the pool for water birth, combined with Gas & Air as/if necessary. I will then consider/accept Pethidine if I really need it (but would rather not), and Epidural or Spinal only if absolutely necessary. Thankfully my midwife assures me that my birthing centre goes along wholeheartedly with this kind of approach - as little intervention as possible unless absolutely necessary.
Im due on the 8th of april and i am so scared, i dont know what to expect and dont now what to put in my birthing plan help!!
hi am due on 5th may an have never been this scared b4...lol..all sorts running through mi mind..lol..xx
hi, im expecting my fifth lol and dreading labour its a killer lol, due april scared too death
Hi I'm 39wks and due on 29th dec, what happens at my next midwifes appt as I will be a couple of days overdue.xx
due xmas day n crappin it im 19 n i realllly dnt want to b over due
Hmm looking through that you would think someone would come up with something better! im not due for another 3 months and not particularly scared of the pain just yet but that seems like a pretty pitiful list...im seriously considering some sort of imagery as it seems so be as effective as anything else if you dont want pethadine or an epidural :S
hiya i was due the 12th im nw 8 days over and sick of waiting for my little boy crnt wait till hes here
Hey, i was Due last year on christmas day, but i didnt have my baby boy until 5 janurary, which my waters broke there self at home. i had a very hard and long labour 18 hours, i had gas and air, Pethidine and then late into the labour i had an Epidural. After the birth, a few days went on and i was readmitted to hospitall 3 times with a very sore head, i couldnt open my eyes or look after my baby. No one could explain why i was in this kind of pain. due to the Epidural there was a hole left in my spine that was leaking. they tried to give me a blood patch running from my arm to my spine. the pain did go away for a day just then i was readmitted by the home visit midwife. i was in hosp for 6 weeks before i got a CT scan which showed things in my brain were they then gave me an MRI scan. I was told then that i had a blood clot in my brain from the Epidural not being done correctly, and pressue in the lining of my brain. i am now on blood thinning tablets for the rest of my life. i was just wondering did any thing like this every happen to anybdy elese, as i am 3 months pregnant now, and im 19 years old and is very interested to hear any one elese story.