​In pregnancy week 33 and 34, we’ve discussed induced labour as well as the stages of labour. Now it’s time we talk about the pain relief options for labour.

Labour is not a test of "toughness". So do ask for pain relief when you require it. You have several options of pain relief to help make this process as comfortable as possible:

Labour pain relief medications

  1. Nitrous oxide gas (Entonox)
  2. Pethidine injections (an opioid injection)
  3. Epidural analgesia
  4. Patient controlled analgesia

Tip: Plan for pain relief medication even if you want a drug-free birth

It is best not to hold out until the eleventh hour before asking for pain relief. Procedures like an epidural require advanced notice and preparation so that the anesthetist can come down in a timely manner to administer the drugs into your spinal space.

The treating team will discuss the risks and benefits of the procedure along the way.

Most of the drugs above are effective and take effect almost immediately, with the exception of the pethidine injections. Those take approximately 15 minutes before its effect is felt.

Vaginal swab to test for Group B Streptococcus (GBS)

Between pregnancy week 35 and week 37, you may need to have a vaginal swab to test for Group B Streptococcus (GBS) during your booking visit. This may affect whether you get antibiotics during the process of labour after your water bag has burst.

Are pain relief options safe for baby?

The pain relief options mentioned above are deemed safe for your baby. However, please note that pethidine injections cannot be given too close to the delivery of your baby as they can sometimes cause drowsiness and breathing problems. These effects are easily reversible. 

Start thinking about cord blood banking

You may want to consider the option of cord banking. Cord blood from the umbilical cord is usually discarded after it is clamped and cut. This is actually wasting a rich source of blood stem cells which can potentially cure some diseases especially blood cancers when transplanted. Blood stem cells are different from embryonic stem cells. There are no ethical issues with harvesting these from the umbilical cord. While it is still early, you might want to consider either public or private cord blood banking. Please inform your doctor early.

For information on cord blood banking, please visit www.scbb.com.sg

Ref: M19