Pain relief at a glance
TENS: A small, hand-held device that uses low-voltage electrical pulses - delivered via pads stuck to your back - to block pain signals to your brain. You control the frequency and strength of the pulses. Drug-free and great for the early stages.
Gas and air: A mix of oxygen and nitrous oxide (laughing gas), this is also known as Entonox. Inhale at the start of the contraction; it wears off after a minute. It provides limited pain relief but can take the edge off.
Pethidine: A pain-killing drug given by injection. It relaxes muscles and soothes anxiety. Effects can last between two and four hours. Some women find it makes them feel spaced-out and nauseous.
Epidural: An anaesthetic-analgesic mix which numbs your lower body. It's given via an injection in the back. It's administered by an anaesthetist so you may need to wait for one to be free. It can slow labour and will mean you'll need to be monitored and may have to lie down. There is more chance you will need intervention like forceps or ventouse.