Pethidine in Labour

What is Pethidine?

Pethidine is an opiate and a very strong pain killer. It is given by injection either into the deep muscle of the buttock or thigh. You use pethidine in Labour as a pain reliever.

Advantages of Pethidine in Labour

  • It is an effective pain reliever especially in the first stage of labour.
  • Helps you to relax and feel less worried about the pain of labour.
  • Works relatively quickly, within 10 minutes of administration.
  • can be given in different doses - if you are not sure you could start off with a small dose and have more if you need it
  • Can be used with entonox (gas and air)

Disadvantages of Pethidine

  • Pethidine can make you drowsy
  • Pethidine can sometimes make you feel sickly - however the midwives can give you an anti-sickness drug at the same time to counteract this.
  • Pethidine crosses the placenta therefore it may make your baby sleepy when it is born. This is more likely to happen if pethidine is given within an hour of delivery. Sometimes this cant be helped as some women progress quicker than others.
  • Pethidine may also delay the establishment of breastfeeding as baby can be quite sleepy.If your baby is severely affected by pethidine then a drug can be given to reverse the effects but this is very rare.
  • If you decide to have pethidine then it restricts the use of other natural pain relievers ie: using the pool.


Using pethidine in labour is down to personal choices and also how you wish to manage your labour and delivery, but don't rule it out of your plans as some women can cope perfectly well without further drugs and there are situations when pethidine in labour is very beneficial.

Please leave your comments below and tell us if you had pethidine in labour. How did it make you feel and did you suffer any ill effects after you had your baby?


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Comments 2 comments

Meg Moon profile image

Meg Moon 4 years ago from United Kingdom

Pethidine was on my birthplan as the maximum pain relief I would go for but in the end it was so quick that I never had any time for any pain relief. With the following two I was prepared and was able to have Gas and Air - which is very common in the UK but I don't think you guys use it much in the US. My friend used Pethidine and she blames it for her finding it very hard to establish breastfeeding.


Onlinemidwife profile image

Onlinemidwife 4 years ago from Manchester UK Author

Hi Meg, its great that you laboured just on gas and air, pethidine has good sides and bad sides to it. Unfortunately if given near to delivery it can cross the placenta in labour and affect the baby making it hard to establish breastfeeding with a really sleepy baby. Im not sure what they use in the US as I work here in UK too but there are variations from different hospitals such as using diamorphine which is even stronger. Gas and Air is very popular but a lot of women though are going straight for a remifentanil rather than pethidine which is more controllable and is out of your system as quick as it goes in.

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