Is it Necessary to Have an IV During Labor?

I hate needles. Do I have to have an IV during labor?

Question:

An IV is a thin plastic tube inserted into a vein in the hand or arm. The two reasons most frequently given as to why IVs are used in labor are that they help keep a woman hydrated and they keep a vein open for the administration of medication in case of emergency.

Regarding the hydration issue, it makes sense that a woman in labor needs to have fluids so that she doesn't get dehydrated -- especially if the labor is long. The more natural way to accomplish this is to make sure the woman is drinking, eating ice chips, sucking on Popsicles, etc. The policy of routine IVs for hydration usually accompanies a policy of "nothing by mouth," which restricts the woman from taking in fluids herself.

Some laboring woman will need an IV. If you have specific medical problems, are using pain medication or pitocin in labor, or if your labor turns out to be very long, it will be necessary.

Find out if your doctor or midwife does routine IVs or has a wait-and-see policy (preferred!). One compromise is to wait until late in labor to start the IV. Another would be to substitute a Heparin lock, a small plastic catheter that is attached to a small valve. This is inserted into a vein to keep it open so you’re prepared if a complication arises, but not encumbered by the IV bag and pole.

It's important for your caregiver to understand your feelings about this intervention. Decisions about your care should be made together.

For more information, read "Procedures Explained."

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