Birth Planning, Understanding Pain

Systemic Medications for Labor

Systemic medications work by blocking the pain receptors in your brain. Depending on the strength of the medication given, the pain may be numbed or it may seem to completely go away. When administered directly into the blood through an IV, the relief from an analgesic is almost immediate. They fall into the categories of tranquilizers, sedatives and narcotics. Narcotic analgesics are systemic medications that mimic your body’s own endorphin (pain relieving substance). Tranquilizers and sedatives encourage relaxation, can reduce tension and anxiety.

Potential Benefits

  • Systemic medications do not need to be injected by an anesthesiologist. The medication is injected by needle into the mothers thigh, or it is administered through her IV fluids.
  • There are a variety of medications that are used this way in labor. Your midwife may be able to combine tranquilizers and narcotics to allow for lower doses of medication to be used.
  • The effects of the medication will wear off in one to two hours, allowing the mother to continue laboring on her own. They do not cause the immobility associated with regional blocks.

Potential Risks

  • The specific risks of medications will vary depending on the medication used. Administration of systemic medication may require IV fluids. Systemic medications can slow labor causing a need for pitocin.
  • Narcotic Analgesics can cause itchiness all over the mother’s body.
  • Systemic medications require the use of fetal monitoring, which may decrease the mother’s mobility. As with any medication, there is a possibility that it will not be effective.
  • Due to the way these medications work, there is increased risk for fetal distress and respiratory depression. Your midwife will assess your labor to determine the risk of using this medication for your baby.
Jennifer (Author)