Updated 19 November 2014

Birth pain relief methods

Want to know more about pain relief during birth? An expert in the field of birth answers these and other questions.


Q: Is it possible to inhale too much gas?

A: Yes, it is possible. I believe that the mother should at all times be in full control of her senses and be able to communicate legibly with her doctor, pushing and holding back when necessary. The negative side of using gas is that the mother can become quite unaware of her actions or surroundings. This can complicate issues in the early stages of labour and thus I would recommend it as a pain relief solution only when full dilatation is eminent and the labour is progressing smoothly.

Q: What are the effects of the following on the baby as regards its physical responsiveness and responsiveness to breastfeeding?

- Pethidine injection
  Pethidine or any other morphine derivative can sedate the baby

- Gas
  The use of gas does not appear to affect the baby in any serious way

- Epidural
  The epidural does not affect the baby as it does not enter the baby’s bloodstream.

Q: How does a spinal block compare to an epidural block?

A: Both the epidural block and spinal block are regional anaesthesias. A spinal block can be administered late in the first stage and close to the second stage of labour. Spinal block is rarely used in labour. The effects are felt within three to five minutes and last for about one to one and a half hours. All sensation and power in the lower half of the body are blocked with total paralysis of the motor and sensory nerve roots. This is an effective anaesthetic, frequently used in the case of a Caesarean section. The epidural block is preferred for normal labour when the effect of the anaesthetic can be prolonged indefinitely.

(Dr Martin Puzey, November 2003)


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