Pethidine is a form of pain relief used during labour and contains a painkilling drug to ease the tension of the pain of contractions. Pethidine is made up of opium and contains spasmodic properties which help to relax your body and make you calm during labour. Similar drugs to Pethidine are pain relief drugs such as Meptid and Diamorphine.

What does the procedure of Pethidine involve?

If you decide to have Pethidine your midwife will arrange to give you the injection either in your thigh or bottom.  Pethidine may only be given in the first stages of labour due to the pain relieving drugs crossing the placenta which could be dangerous for your unborn baby.

Pethidine can also be given via intravenous through the vein in your arm.  If the Pethidine is given through your arm you may have a catheter which is inserted in your arm and the other end has an intravenous pump. You can control the amount of Pethidine you want to take as you can hold the pump and this is often termed as patient controlled analgesia however not all hospitals will offer to give you Pethidine this way.

When can I have Pethidine during labour?

Doctors recommend that if you choose to take Pethidine you should have it during the first stages of labour only as there may be risks to you and the baby if you have it too late. When you reach 10cms dilated your body feels the urge to push and if Pethidine is given too late the drugs may cross the placenta and your baby may absorb it.

The Advantages of Pethidine

There are a few advantages of taking Pethidine as a pain relief during labour as outlined below:

  • It can be effective in a short amount of time providing quick pain relief
  • Your midwife may be able to prescribe you at any time during the first stages of labour
  • It can aid in making you calm and relaxed
  • It will not affect the speed and progression of your labour
  • It can help you to delay having an epidural or not have one at all
  • It can be used for a home birth if needed
  • You may be able to use it in a birthing pool however you cannot use it in the first 2 hours
  • The pain relief takes around 15-20 minutes to come into affect
  • You can control how much Pethidine you want to take in some cases

The Disadvantages of Pethidine

  • As with any pain relief there are often disadvantages as outlined below:
  • Some women may feel drowsy after taking Pethidine
  • Many women feel sick and vomit due to the effects of the Pethidine
  • It may make you feel faint and dizzy
  • It may cross the placenta and make your baby more drowsy which may last for days
  • It may be difficult for you to breastfeed your child if they are unresponsive after Pethidine
  • Many women reported it as being unpleasant
  • You may feel over exhausted after Pethidine

Can anyone have Pethidine during labour?

There may be circumstances where your doctor will recommend that Pethidine is not suitable as a pain relief for your labour. It is always best to discuss the suitability of any pain relief with your doctor or midwife to discuss the pros and cons according to your individual pregnancy circumstances. Some women in high risk pregnancies may decide to avoid Pethidine due to the high opium drug and the effects of drowsiness.

Where is Pethidine prescribed in labour?

Pethidine can be taken in a home birth as well as a hospital setting however many midwives dislike giving Pethidine during home births due to the potential risks.  Most hospitals stock Pethidine pain relief but if you are unsure you can ask your chosen hospital about which pain reliefs are available for the labour. You may want to discuss the procedure in more detail with your doctor or midwife and get feedback from mothers who have taken Pethidine during their labour.

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