Inducing labour, pain relief, and help during birth

Having a baby is the most natural thing in the world, but it’s different for every woman.

Sometimes things don’t go as planned for the labour or you need help with the birth.

Inducing labour

An induced labour is one that is started artificially, rather than starting naturally on its own. Labour can be induced by breaking the bag of water around the baby and using medicines, or just using medicines and other methods. Your midwife (or specialist doctor) may recommend induction:

  • if your baby is overdue
  • if your waters have broken before labour starts on its own
  • if you or your baby have a health problem.

Your midwife (or specialist doctor) will give you information and answer your questions to help you to decide about induction. This includes how the induction will be done, why they recommend it and what the risks are.

You can find out more at Induction of labour on the National Women's Health website.

Pain relief

Pain is a normal part of the labour process. Many women choose to not have any pain relief during labour and others choose to have medicines to help with the pain. It’s your choice whether you have pain relief or not.

To help you decide, you can discuss with your pain relief options with your midwife (or specialist doctor). They will give you information about the pain relief options available at your chosen place of birth, including any risks. 

Pain relief options include:

  • self-help – such as massage, breathing, using water and moving around
  • homeopathy, herbal medicine or rongoā
  • acupressure and acupuncture
  • gas and air (a mixture of nitrous oxide and oxygen, sometimes called Entonox)
  • pethidine, morphine or fentanyl injections
  • an epidural.

You can find out more about Pain relief options on the National Women's Health website.

When you need help with the birth

A small number of women need the help of instruments with their births. Forceps or a ventouse suction cup can be used on the baby’s head to help to birth the baby.

You can find out more about assisted births at Mode of birth on the National Women’s Health website.

Caesarean section

A caesarean section is an operation to remove the baby through a cut in the mother’s tummy. Caesareans can be planned or urgent (emergency). During your pregnancy, a caesarean may be planned when your midwife (or specialist doctor) believes that labour may be dangerous for you or your baby. An urgent caesarean is needed when complications happen during pregnancy or labour and the safest option is to deliver the baby straight away.

Your midwife (or specialist doctor) will give you information and answer your questions about a caesarean. This includes what happens during and after a caesarean, why they recommend it and what the risks are.

You can find out more about caesareans at Mode of birth from the National Women's Health website.

Related websites

Labour and birth – Healthify He Puna Waiora
Learn about what happens during labour and birth including how to recognise signs of labour and pain-relief options.

Induction of Labour (PDF, 251 KB) – HealthInfo (Canterbury District Health Board)
Detailed information on what happens during an induction. Some of this information is specific to Canterbury.

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