Understanding IV Medications

Most women today assume that they will be given an epidural if they want pain relief during labor.  Some women, however, can't take the epidural for certain medical reasons.  Others are uncomfortable with the idea of the spinal epidural and the side effects that it can have.  It is important, when going into labor, to know that there are other options besides the epidural for pain relief.  There are certain intravenous medications such as Stadol, Dermerol and Nubain that can relieve pain and help women a great deal during labor.

What is an IV Medication for Labor?

IV medication does not cause a part of the body to become numb, as does the epidural.  What it does do is create a feeling of relaxation and a reduction in the feeling of pain for approximately two to four hours.  IVs do not completely take the sensation of the contractions away, but they help the woman to relax and to feel sleepy.  These medicines are often administered through an IV catheter or can be given as a one time injection directly into the spinal column.  They can also, at times, be injected into a muscle in the thigh or buttocks.  Another great idea is to request a Patient Controlled Analgesia (PCA) Pump.  This is a pump that allows the mother to administer the pain medication herself.  She pushes a button and a small, pre-programmed amount of the pain medication is automatically administered.

What Are The Advantages?

The advantages of the IV medications for labor include a feeling of control and an ability to assume more positions.  You will be able to feel your body working, and will know when you need to push.  In addition, you can use certain positions that are not possible with an epidural and can feel that you still have control over your body, simply with less feeling for the pain.  IV medications do not require an anesthesiologist to administer them, and they take effect quite quickly, giving more immediate relief.  For women who feel anxious during labor, these medicines might be the perfect way to "take the edge off" the pain and to cope with the labor.  They are an interesting compromise for a woman who is scared to do completely natural childbirth, but does not want to use an epidural.  Sometimes, they can be used during the early stages of labor and an epidural can be administered later.

What Are The Disadvantages for You?

As with any drug, there are certain disadvantages that come along with an IV's use.  While you are given the IV medication, you might have to remain in bed for awhile.  You may have side effects, which include a feeling of nausea or vomiting.  You may also feel sleepy or groggy, which some women do not like. If you are given the medicine too early, it may slow your labor down, which can lead to further interventions such as pitocin.  If given too close to delivery, it may interfere with the baby's heart rate.  You will have to be closely monitored while using this medicine, and will not have the freedom to walk the halls or to move about as much as you would if you were not on medication.

What Are The Disadvantages for Your Baby?

These medicines do cross the placenta during labor and do have an influence on your baby.  They can depress the central nervous system and depress respiratory function.  They may make early breastfeeding more difficult.  They can also alter the neurological behavior of the baby and decrease the baby's ability to regulate its body temperature.  It's possible that your baby will need medication to counter some of these side effects.  One medicine, Naloxone, is given in small doses to help with any respiratory difficulties and this can be given intravenously to the baby.

Medicines of this sort are a perfect choice for certain laboring women.  It's important to be informed and to know both the advantages and disadvantages of every decision before entering labor.  This will allow for a calmer, smoother and more rewarding laboring experience for you and your partner.



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