Here are some of the pain relief methods commonly used during birth.
Water- you dont have to give birth in water to benefit from in. Just spending your labour in the warm pool can help make you feel more relaxed. Some women opt for a waterbirth but many will use water simply to ease the contractions and then get out for the birth.
Opiates come in the form of pethidine, meptid and diamorphine. This is an injection usually given in your buttocks and mskes you feel drowsy. It works by making you feel relaxed and even a bit sleepy. It crosses the placenta though so shouldn't be given too close to the birth of the baby as it may affect their breathing.
Entenox or gas & air is also known as laughing gas. You breath it through a mouthpiece throughout each contraction and similar to opiates it relaxes you , taking the edge off the pain. It only stays in your system for a short period of time and doesnt cross the placenta. It can make you feel a little nauseous if you puff on it too much!
Epidurals are more invasive and have many more risks for mum but they offer a full pain block when effective. They can be helpful for women who are having extremely long labours due to babies being in difficult positions. An anaesthetist will discuss an epidural with you thoroughly if you ask for one and they are only given in hospitals, not in birth centres or during homebirths.