Your pain relief options for labour with Royal Surrey Maternity

Labour can be painful so it is helpful for you and your birth partner to learn about the options available to you.  Ask your midwife to explain what's available so you can decide what is best for you. Remember to keep an open mind, you may find you want more pain relief than you'd planned, or your midwife or doctor may suggest more effective pain relief to help you. Here are the options available at Royal Surrey maternity.

Self-help in labour

There are simple things you can do to help manage pain in labour and you are likely to feel more relaxed and empowered to cope if you:

  • Learn about labour so that you feel more in control and less anxious about what is going to happen.
  • Learn how to relax and stay calm.
  • Stay active and change your position, try a birthing ball.
  • Focus on calm breathing to increase the blood supply to your muscles.
  • Some mothers find  aromatherapy, hypnosis, homeopathy and reflexology helpful.

Speak to your midwife about these simple methods and take a look at our education courses including birth preparation, hypnobirthing and Royal Relaxation.


Hydrotherapy is the use of water to manage pain and can be used in labour. Ask you midwife about water birthing and take a look at our midwife-led birthing pool and the obstetric-led birthing pool room.  


TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) works by attaching 4 pads to your back which send continuous electrical impulses that help block pain signals and help your body to produce endorphins to help manage pain.

You can hire TENS machines from high street chemists or the hospital’s physio department.


Paracetamol is a drug used to relieve mild to moderate pain and lower a raised temperature or fever. It can be used safely in labour and during postnatal care without the need for a prescription.


You may know Entonox by its other name ‘gas and air’ and is a combination of nitrous oxide and oxygen. Entonox can be used in labour to help with contraction pain. Your midwife will explain how you breath Entonox through a mouth piece during your contractions. This form of pain relief is available in all our birthing rooms and at home if you are planning a homebirth.


Pethidine is a pain relieving medicine given by injection into your upper thigh or buttock. It takes about 20-30 minutes to work and lasts for 2-4 hours, helping you to relax, feel less pain and sometimes sleep. Pethidine can make you feel sick so we suggest giving it with an anti-sickness medicine to help with this potential symptom.


Epidurals are available 24 hours a day at the Royal Surrey. It is a type of local anaesthetic, administered by an anaesthetist by threading a small plastic tube in to your back through a needle. The needle is then removed so that you can move around. The anaesthetic that is injected works to numb the nerves that carry pain signals from your tummy and birth canal to the brain. This can be very helpful to women who are having a very long labour or are not managing with pain and can give most women complete pain relief.

Tommy's PregnacyHub has more detail on all of the pain relief options listed above.