Drugs During Childbirth

Pregnant women often hope for a drug-free childbirth. But it's not the only way to have a healthy baby.

  • Whether they planned it or not, many women end up taking some kind of drug during birthing.
  • Some drugs help start or speed up labor; others ease the pain of contractions.
  • Before you go into labor, you should talk to your doctor about medicine choices.

Drugs for inducing/starting childbirth

  • If your baby is two weeks or more overdue, your doctor may suggest inducing labor.
  • Inducing labor may be recommended if:
  • Your water breaks before you go into labor
  • You have:
    • High blood pressure
    • Diabetes (high blood sugar)
    • A serious infection
    • Any other illness or condition that could harm you or your baby

Two types of medicine

The two medicines most often used to bring on labor are copies of chemicals that your body makes.

  • Prostaglandins
    • Help soften or "ripen" the cervix to get ready for labor
    • Comes in two forms: gel or suppository (placed into the rectum or vagina)
    • Considered safe for both the mother and baby
    • May make you sick to your stomach and cause you to throw up or have diarrhea

After the cervix has softened and opened up a bit - either on its own or with the help of medicines - it's time for contractions to start.

  • Pitocin (oxytocin)
    • Used to help begin contractions
    • Delivered through a needle
    • Does not pass through to the placenta, so it does not harm the baby
    • Can cause overly strong contractions that your baby may not like
    • A nurse or doctor will carefully watch your baby's heart rate for any signs of trouble

If the medicine fails to start labor or if the contractions become too strong, you may need a C-section.

  • Cytotec (a type of prostaglandin)
    • If your doctor wants to induce or start labor , ask which drug he or she is planning to use.
    • Cytotec, also known as misoprostol, is a man-made drug that mimics the prostaglandins made in the body to start labor
    • Supported by the American Congress of obstetrician s and Gynecologists (ACOG)
    • Not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration because it can cause uterine rupture


There is a rich history of other methods that may help bring on labor , from having sex to taking hot baths. Even though these methods have not been scientifically proven to speed up labor or childbirth, some do have some helpful aspects. It is said that sex can:

  • Make oxytocin
  • Help ripen the cervix and bring about labor due to prostaglandins in semen
  • Set off contractions if you have an orgasm

Pain medicine

Once you start you may need help with the pain. The favored choice for help with pain during childbirth is an epidural.

  • You receive an injection of a numbing drug in your lower back.
  • Pain is blocked, but you remain awake
  • Epidurals can have drawbacks.
    • You may not be able to walk after the drug takes hold.
    • You may not be able to push as hard as normal.
    • There's a greater chance the doctor will have to use a tool to pull your baby out.
  • Many women now choose a "walking epidural."
    • It lets you keep some muscle plug control so you can push and even walk
  • You may need a catheter (a tube inserted in your vagina) to be able to pass urine.
  • The epidural can cause some Side effects for you, which may include:
    • Headaches
    • Dizziness
    • Itching
  • If it gets into your baby's body, he or she can also have side effects.
    • Reflexes and breathing may be unusually slow at birth
    • The doctor can give him or her medicine to offset these side effects.

No birth is the same, and no woman can truly know what she'll need. Even women planning a drug-free childbirth often find it nice to know that doctors have many choices for making delivery safe and as pain free as they can.

[references] Copyright © 2010 LimeHealth

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