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Coping with labour

Advice for labour options at our birth centres

Coronavirus: maternity services update

Due to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic we understand that many of you will be worried about the situation and the impact it will have on your pregnancy and care. We have created a list of frequently asked questions to reassure you in this difficult time. You should also read about the changes we have made to our community midwifery services and specific advice for women who are breastfeeding.

You will be encouraged to move around in labour, because keeping upright is thought to help facilitate effective contractions, and promote good positioning of the baby. Rest, keeping well hydrated and eating a light diet (if you don’t feel nauseous) are also very important.


Whether you are in early labour at home, or in established labour in hospital, you should make sure you keep drinking water, and ask your birth partner to remind you if you forget.

Pain-relieving options

Some women use breathing techniques to help with relaxation in labour. Please see below for other methods for coping with labour or download our document 'coping methods and options for pain relief in labour' (PDF 76Kb).

  • Join our 'talk with an anaesthetist' drop-in sessions (PDF 211Kb), once a month on Tuesdays to discuss pain relief in labour.
  • Water (water births)

    Water helps many women cope with pain during established labour. Women who use water are more likely to report a positive and satisfying labour and birth experience. Get information about our pool rooms.

  • Entonox (gas and air)

    Gas and air is available in all rooms including the pool rooms. Entonox has been shown to be an effective way of coping with pain, however some women may feel drowsy and/or nauseated or may vomit when using it.

  • Pain-reducing drugs

    Injections of pain-reducing opiate drugs (diamorphine) are also available in the hospital birth centre and the Home from Home birth centre (not for water births).

    Opiate analgesia tends to be used in the earlier stages of labour, especially when labour is taking longer to become established. Opiate use is avoided in advanced labour because of the possible effect on the baby’s breathing at birth.

  • Aromatherapy/massage

    Some women find aromatherapy and/or massage can encourage relaxation.

  • Epidural

    Epidurals are available in the hospital birth centre but not in the Home from Home birth centre which offers midwife-led care.

    Epidurals are administered into the lower back by a specially trained anaesthetist, and cause numbness to the areas in the lower back and abdomen which are affected by pain during labour.

    Many women are able to continue walking after their epidural is put in, but most will feel heaviness in their legs or loss of sensation if the epidural stays in for some time.

    Epidurals are the most effective form of pain relief. The drawbacks are that you are more likely to need a ventouse or forceps birth, augmentation (a hormone drip to increase contractions) and your labour may last a little longer.

    You will need a needle (cannula) in your hand or arm to give you extra fluids whilst you have an epidural, and some women need a bladder catheter inserted, if they are unable to walk or to pass urine.

    Epidurals are not available in the Home from Home birth centre, because these require specialist anaesthetic care and supervision which is most safely provided in the hospital birth centre.

  • TENS machine

    You may wish to use your own transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) machine, particularly for back pain in early labour.