Drug Choices in Labor - dummies

By Rachel Gurevich, Sharon Perkins

Part of Birth Plans For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Medication options can make up a big part of your birth plan. Maybe you plan to go natural and don’t want hospital staff to even mention pain medication. Or maybe you want your epidural put in during the last few weeks of pregnancy so it’s ready to go! (Sorry, that’s not really an option.) Either way, knowing your options ahead of time makes writing your birth plan easier.

Choosing an epidural

If you’ve already decided you want an epidural, you’re in good company — between 50 and 70 percent of women in the United States get an epidural for labor pain, and in some hospitals, the rate is closer to 90 percent. Epidural issues to consider adding to your birth plan include:

  • When you would like to get an epidural (keeping in mind that if you get it too early, it can slow labor)

  • The option to lie on your side rather than sitting up during the epidural placement

  • Whether to have your partner or other support person stay with you during the epidural placement

  • The option to not have a Foley catheter (for urination) placed automatically after epidural placement (you can ask to be catheterized intermittently instead)

Choosing intravenous sedation

Intravenous sedation includes medications such as meperidine (Demerol), butorphanol (Stadol), and nalbuphine hydrochloride (Nubain). These medications work rapidly and last for several hours. Sedatives take the edge off labor pain, but they do have disadvantages:

  • If given too close to the time the baby’s born, they can make your baby very sleepy and interfere with spontaneous breathing.

  • They can slow labor if given very early.