"Give me all the drugs!"

This is something I hear often when I talk to women about how they are planning to give birth.

I always wonder to myself how much they know about these drugs and the effect they can have on birth, are they making an informed decision?! (yes I know I'm banging on about this again, but its really important!)

Drugs in labour


Do they know that pethidine is a narcotic, the common side effect of which is that it makes mothers vomit. Babies are more likely to be in a poorer physical condition at birth when pethidine has been administered(1), it can cause breathing difficulties in newborns(2) and can negatively impact on a newborn babies ability to breastfeed?(3) It also means baby is more likely to cry, and have difficulty quieting themselves. (4)



So how about epidural?

These require an anaethetist to administer so can be dependent on availability at the time, but are widely used in the UK.
One study(5) showed that babies born when an epidural was used were far more likely to be admitted into neonatal care, and to stay there for a longer time. And because epidurals can cause a raised temperature in the mother, the babies were 5 times more likely to undergo distressing and invasive tests for sepsis, and twice as likely to be given antibiotics, even though the babies were not more likely to have infection.
Epidurals can cause mothers blood pressure to drop which can restrict blood flow to baby and lead to foetal distress.

"It is interesting how our society is highly critical of women who smoke, drink or take drugs during their pregnancies, but it is totally acceptable to give them far more powerful drugs during their labours without a thought of the possible implications for the baby."(AIMS - Does medication administered to a woman in labour affect the unborn child?)

Now I am not saying no one should use drugs for childbirth, I know many women use them without any adverse affects on them, their baby, or their labour, and they find it a really useful way to cope with labour. I welcome women having a choice, but they must be able to make an informed decision. Many women simply do not know enough about the risks of these drugs, or what their alternative options are, to be able to make an informed decision.

If you would like to learn more about your options for pain relief, and other ways to cope with labour, then you need to book onto my hypnobirthing course!



  1. Chamberlain G et al. (1993). Pain and its relief in childbirth, Churchill Livingstone.
  2. Yerby M, (1996). Managing pain in labour - Part 3: pharmacological methods of pain relief, Modern Midwife, May, p22-25.
  3. Ransjo-Arvidson et al., (2001). Maternal analgesia, during labor disturbs newborn behaviour: effects on breastfeeding, temperature, and crying, Birth, 28, pp5-12.
  4. Belsey EM et al., (1981). The influence of maternal analgesia on neonatal behaviour: I. Pethidine. British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, April, pp398-406
  5.  Brigham Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts 1994-1995