IVs during labor

Aug 10, 2011 at 9:04 a.m. ET

As routine as hearing "push!" in the delivery room, IVs are being administered to laboring women as a precautionary measure. If you're scared of needles, you may be wondering what to expect when IVs are used during labor and delivery. From the benefits of having an IV to intravenous line alternatives, we've shined some light on the use of IVs during labor.

What is an IV?

A small plastic catheter called an IV is inserted into your vein in your wrist, top of your hand or inside the bend in your arm for multiple purposes during labor.

Benefits of an IV

An IV can help keep you hydrated during labor, especially for laboring mothers experiencing nausea and vomiting. It can also be used to easily administer medication such as Pitocin, antibiotics and anti-nausea medications before, during and after labor without having to be stuck with a needle over and over again. An IV also allows you to have an epidural, when blood pressure medication is usually a must and a routine IV is just part of the procedure.

>> Check out tips for the first stage of labor

Disadvantages of having an IV

Although beneficial, having an IV may also pose some drawbacks. The initial insertion can be painful to some, while others experience tenderness throughout labor. You will also need to keep yourself from getting tangled in the IV line when changing positions or moving about. IV-wearing mommies may also have trouble getting into the tub or shower during labor to prevent water from getting into the catheter.

In addition, Lamaze International reports that there is increasing concern that IV use may be dangerous for both mother and baby, contributing to water intoxication due to over hydration.

Intravenous line alternatives

Whether looking for the most natural labor and delivery experience or just want to avoid having to worry about an IV line, you may have three alternatives to routine IVs as soon as you step into the labor and delivery ward.

Those weary of being stuck with an IV due to risk of dehydration can aim for hydration with clear fluids. Another option is to ask your physician if you are a candidate for a heparin lock, in which a catheter placed inside your vein, heparin is added to prevent blood clotting and the catheter is taped off. Although you still have to suffer through the initial insertion, you'll be free of the IV line.

For those experiencing a routine, low-risk labor, a third option is to request that your IV wait to be inserted until later during active labor.

Regardless of which side of the IV line you're on, before choosing your OB/GYN, be sure to discuss his or her practice in regards to IV use during labor and delivery. This way, you'll know what to expect and can focus on your baby's grand entrance into the world!

More on labor and delivery

8 Natural ways to induce labor
Am I in labor? 6 signs labor is starting
Coping with labor-related fears

Age 14 Age 15 Age 16 Age 17 Age 18 Age 13 Age 12 Age 11 Age 10 Age 9 Age 8 Age 7 Age 6 Age 5 Age 4 Age 3 Age 2 Age 1 baby pregnancy