Taking Medicine During Labor

Mother holding newborn just after birthThe use of any type of medicine always requires careful weighing of risk against benefit. In the case of obstetrical drugs used during labor and delivery, risks and benefits must be examined for both mother and baby, making the decision a more complicated one. Sometimes, the risks of medicine clearly outweigh the benefits they offer, such as when the fetus, because of prematurity or other factors, doesn’t appear strong enough to cope with the combined stress of labor and drugs. Most experts agree that when childbirth medicine is used, benefits can be increased and risks reduced by:

~ Selecting a drug that has minimal side effects and presents the least risk to mother and baby, while still providing pain relief; giving it in the smallest dose that will be effective; and administering it at the optimum time in the course of labor.

~ Discuss pain relief and anesthesia with your practitioner long before labor begins. Find out what kinds of drugs or procedures they use most often and what side effects may be experienced by mother and/or baby. Also, find out when they consider medicine absolutely necessary and when the option is yours.

~ Recognize, that although childbirth is a natural experience that many women can go through without medicine it is not supposed to be a trial by ordeal or a test of bravery, strength, or endurance. The pain of childbirth has been described as the most intense in the human experience. Medical technology has given women the option of relief from this through medicine.

~ Keep in mind that taking any medicine while pregnant entails both risks and benefits, and it should be used only when the benefits outweigh the risks.

~ Don’t make up and close your mind in advance. You may want to plan what might be best for you under certain circumstances, but it’s impossible to
predict what kind of labor and delivery you will have, how you will respond to the contractions, and whether or not you will want, need, or must have

~ If, during labor, you feel you need medicine, discuss it with your birth partner and the certified nurse midwife or doctor, but don’t insist on it immediately. Try waiting 15 minutes, using all your comfort measures and then check to see if your labor had progressed. If it has, you may have the will to go on without help. If it hasn’t progressed, make your decision to try the smallest dose of medicine and work from that point on.

~ Remember, it is your baby’s birthday, no matter how she is born, and the most important outcome is a healthy baby and a healthy mom.

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