Preparing for birth
What to expect from the final few months of your pregnancy, antenatal appointments, delivery options and Braxton Hicks
TENS machines are widely available for hire online and from chemists − make sure you get a machine specifically designed for use in pregnancy, not just for general pain relief. It can take about an hour before you really feel the benefits – so start using it as soon as you go into labour. It can also help soothe backache towards the end of pregnancy.
Sometimes known as Entonox, gas and air is administered orally and can be used at home, during births or combined with other pain relief. To feel the effect when you really need it, inhale as soon as you get a contraction.
Even if you don’t want a water birth, warm water (kept at around body temperature), can help you relax and soothe painful contractions. Most birthing suites have a birth pool or shower room, so ask your midwife if you can have a bath or stand (sit or squat!) under a warm running shower.
This method of pain relief involves injecting a drug, such as pethidine or diamorphine, into your thigh or buttock. As it can make you nauseous, it’s often given with an anti-sickness drug at the same time. Due to the possible side effects on your baby, it is not usually given if your midwife thinks you will deliver quickly. And if you are still feeling the effects towards the end of labour, you may find it more difficult to push.
Epidurals are only available at hospitals and are usually administered once the cervix is dilated to around 5 or 6cm and there are strong contractions. This type of traditional epidural will leave you with no feeling in your legs, so you’ll be bed-bound and may need help timing your pushes during the delivery.
Most hospital units now use mobile epidurals – also known as walking epidurals. Unlike the more traditional epidurals, mobile epidurals leave you with some feeling in your legs and perineal area, so you are more able to sense when to push.
Whatever your pain relief preference, always discuss the options with your midwife and remember to check that your hospital provides the option you want.
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