Find out about the pain relief options available

Drug-free pain relief 

Women and birthing people who choose to give birth in our midwifery-led units, or at home will often use these options. 

  • Gas and air: These are composed of 50% nitrous oxide gas and 50% oxygen. This is used during labour and works very quickly to ease the pain. It’s particularly effective when combined with having a water birth.  
  • Hydrotherapy: In 2020, 64% of people having their baby at one of our birth centres used hydrotherapy (water immersion) for pain relief, and around 40% gave birth to their babies in the water. The benefits of water during labour can include less use of epidural during labour⁠ and a shortened first stage of labour.⁠ We have a total of eight birthing pools across our maternity departments at St Mary's Hospital and Queen Charlotte's and Chelsea Hospital. We have birth pools in both our birth centres and delivery suites.⁠ 
  • Complimentary therapies: Our midwives have access to a range of essential oils which can be blended to provide you with a relaxing back massage during labour. Other options for pain relief 

Other options for pain relief

  • Diamorphine: A strong pain killer that can be provided during your delivery. It is given as a normal injection just under the skin and can last for four to six hours. There are side effects such as back pains and sleepiness, but these tend to wear off. 
  • Epidurals: Epidurals are only available on the delivery suite because it needs close monitoring. We can also offer an extra injection in addition to the epidural which encourages the pain relief to act faster. Your midwife will explain the procedure along with any potential side effects. 

    If you have any questions about pain relief, please be sure to make a note in your PRISM workbook for your next virtual antenatal PRISM session, or make a note of the question to ask your midwife.