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Is it Possible to Have a Pain-free Labour?

By: Rachel Newcombe - Updated: 6 Dec 2010 | comments*Discuss
Pain Free Pain-free Painful Labour Birth

We’ve all heard the horror stories about really painful births and the agony endured for hours on end, but is it possible to have a pain-free labour?

Those who’ve experienced the horrors of long and painful births may well be baulking at the thought that labour could possibly be pain-free. There are however, a number of ways in which it can be a relatively pain-free experience, both as a result of using pain-relieving drugs and medical interventions, as well as more alternative means.

Pain-Relieving Drugs

The first port of call for many women is pain-relieving drugs. The drug pethidine, for example, is a drug that is given via an injection – normally in your thigh or bottom – and it works best when used during the first stage of labour. It does what it should and takes away the pain. The dose lasts for three to four hours, during which time you’ll have to lie down, as you’ll feel sleepy. If pain is a real concern for you and it can be given in time (it’s not so much use if your labour has progressed further), then pethidine is good for relieving pain in the early stages of labour. As with any drug, though, there are a few potential side-effects and some women don’t like the drug-induced feeling it produces and it can make you vomit. Another type of commonly used medication to help ease pain is the epidural. There are various forms available – like a mobile epidural or a traditional epidural – but they work on a similar basis and provide you with a painkilling anaesthetic.


Apart from pain-relieving drugs, there are other more alternative forms of treatment that some people claim can help produce a pain-free labour. One of these is hypnobirthing, which makes use of hypnotherapy.

Hypnobirthing has to be learnt in advance to have any major effect and women go to classes or have one-to-one sessions which teach them how to use the hypnobirthing techniques during labour to ease, or block out, the sensation of pain. It can also come in handy during pregnancy too, aiding relaxation and generally easing any discomfort you may feel.

One of the benefits of hypnobirthing is that you’re more aware of what’s going on during labour and around you than when you’re on drugs and don’t end up feeling woozy. You’ll feel relaxed, happy and comfortable about the situation you’re in, have less fear about the pain or labour and, hopefully, feel more confident about your own ability to get through it.

It’s not an approach for everyone, and you may need a certain degree of faith in order to believe it is possible, but many people do successfully use the technique.

Water Birth

Another more unusual alternative – although it is definitely gaining in popularity and becoming more acceptable – is giving birth in water. Although it may not totally offer a pain-free labour, research suggests that being in warm water can help ease some of the pain and discomfort usually experienced by women.

Water birthing used to be only thought of as an option for home births, but many birthing centres and maternity units in hospitals do now have birthing pools available if you’re interested (although you will need to make this known to your midwife in advance, so it can be set up in time).


Yes, some women are just plain lucky when it comes to giving birth and sail through with little pain at all. It’s no wonder they’re often highly envied by those who’ve gone through hours of agony. Sadly, the exact reason why some women find labour pain-free is hard to pinpoint and it seems to be more of a case of chance, not careful planning. If you’re lucky enough to fit into this category, than cherish the moment!

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