safe motherhood



If it feels as though you've been in labour forever and you're tense and tired, with chaotic contractions, and desperately in need of a rest, then the answer for you may be Pethidine.

Pethidine is a morphine-like drug that was used a lot in labour before epidurals took over. It works to alter your perception of pain and is more of a sedative than a painkiller. If you are delivering at home then Pethidine is an alternative to gas and air. (Epidurals are only given in hospital.)

Administered in the form of a drug injected into your bottom by your midwife, Pethidine is given at a standard dose of 100mg. Once administered, it can't be 'un-administered', so if you are a very small woman, or you know that the medications you take in everyday life tend to have a powerful effect on you, ask for a half dose. You will need to lie down if you have Pethidine as you are likely to feel sleepy once it takes effect.

A shot of Pethidine lasts about three to four hours. Because Pethidine crosses the placenta to your child and can make your baby sleepy and slow to breathe you should not be given it shortly before you deliver. You or your midwife should check how many centimetres dilated you are before having Pethidine - it should be avoided if you are over seven centimetres dilated.

As well as the effects on the baby, the drawbacks of Pethidine are that it can make you feel drowsy and out-of-control, may make you feel sick and you won't be able to move about after having it. However, despite this Pethidine does still have a role in childbirth as it can enable women who need it to rest, or even sleep, during a long-drawn-out labour.