Narcotics for labor pain

A narcotic is a drug (medicine) that changes how you feel pain. Narcotics affect your whole nervous system instead of just one area. Your nervous system includes your brain, spinal cord and nerves. The medicine lowers pain and makes it easier to rest. 

You may want medicine like narcotics to help with labor pain. Or you may want to have natural childbirth without medicines. 

Talk to your health care provider about your pain-relief options to decide which is right for you. Write your pain-relief choice on your birth plan and share it with your provider and with staff at the hospital or birthing center where you plan to have your baby. A birth plan is a set of instructions you make about your baby’s birth. 

How do narcotics work? 

Your provider gives you narcotics through a tube inserted into a vein (called an IV) or a shot you get in a muscle, like in the buttocks or thigh. If you get an IV, you may be able to control your own pain relief by pushing a button that releases a fixed amount of medicine through the IV into your body. 

You can get narcotics any time during labor, but they work best during early labor when the cervix isn’t fully dilated (open). The cervix is the opening to the uterus that sits at the top of the vagina. They also can be used with other pain medicine, like an epidural or spinal block

What are some pros and cons of using narcotics for labor pain?

Learning about pros and cons can help you decide if narcotics are right for you.

Pros

  • Pain relief begins in minutes. It can last 2 to 6 hours, depending on how you get the medicine.
  • You stay awake and alert.
  • They help you rest without causing muscle weakness or lowering your ability to push. 

Cons

  • They may make you feeling sleepy.
  • They may upset your stomach. 
  • If you get too much, they can slow down breathing for both you and your baby. 
  • If you get them too close to birth, they may slow your baby's breathing and heart rate.

Can you use narcotics even if you try to have natural childbirth? 

Yes. Labor pain affects each woman differently. You may have mild discomfort or you may have intense pain. If you try natural childbirth and decide during labor to use pain medicine, it’s OK. You can ask for pain relief at any time during labor and birth.


Last reviewed: June, 2014

A narcotic is a drug (medicine) that changes how you feel pain. Narcotics affect your whole nervous system instead of just one area. Your nervous system includes your brain, spinal cord and nerves. The medicine lowers pain and makes it easier to rest. 

You may want medicine like narcotics to help with labor pain. Or you may want to have natural childbirth without medicines. 

Talk to your health care provider about your pain-relief options to decide which is right for you. Write your pain-relief choice on your birth plan and share it with your provider and with staff at the hospital or birthing center where you plan to have your baby. A birth plan is a set of instructions you make about your baby’s birth. 

How do narcotics work? 

Your provider gives you narcotics through a tube inserted into a vein (called an IV) or a shot you get in a muscle, like in the buttocks or thigh. If you get an IV, you may be able to control your own pain relief by pushing a button that releases a fixed amount of medicine through the IV into your body. 

You can get narcotics any time during labor, but they work best during early labor when the cervix isn’t fully dilated (open). The cervix is the opening to the uterus that sits at the top of the vagina. They also can be used with other pain medicine, like an epidural or spinal block

What are some pros and cons of using narcotics for labor pain?

Learning about pros and cons can help you decide if narcotics are right for you.

Pros

  • Pain relief begins in minutes. It can last 2 to 6 hours, depending on how you get the medicine.
  • You stay awake and alert.
  • They help you rest without causing muscle weakness or lowering your ability to push. 

Cons

  • They may make you feeling sleepy.
  • They may upset your stomach. 
  • If you get too much, they can slow down breathing for both you and your baby. 
  • If you get them too close to birth, they may slow your baby's breathing and heart rate.

Can you use narcotics even if you try to have natural childbirth? 

Yes. Labor pain affects each woman differently. You may have mild discomfort or you may have intense pain. If you try natural childbirth and decide during labor to use pain medicine, it’s OK. You can ask for pain relief at any time during labor and birth.


Last reviewed: June, 2014