Is it safe to Take Drugs During Labor?

There are certain drugs that can be given during labor and there are obviously advantages and disadvantages to taking them, so certainly this is something your doctor should be able to tell advise you about. Drugs may be given to induce and to speed up the process of labor which some research has shown to be more beneficial than doing nothing. In fact, it has been suggested that the incidence of meconium aspiration by the baby is decreased if labor is induced and the chances of a woman needing a C-section may be decreased also. Naturally this is significant since this operation has the risks associated with any such abdominal surgery.

Life Threatening Instances

Generally, though, a baby that is only one week past the expected due date is not a cause for concern and drugs are generally not given to induce birth if the baby is showing no signs of distress. There are, however, some instances when various complications may require that labor be chemically induced for safety reasons, like when the mother has abnormally and dangerously high blood pressure (pre-eclampsia), or diabetes, or if the membranes have already ruptured. These situations all pose a risk to the mother and baby and therefore it is best to induce labor, which is done with drugs that are synthetic prostaglandins, which mimic the natural hormones of the body and work by encouraging the cervix to dilate and the uterus to contract.

To Bring on Labor

Sometimes an intravenous oxytocin medication is given to hasten labor. A synthetic oxytocin can be given to stimulate the muscles of the uterus to contract, however, injectable oxytocin does have some side effects that can be harmful. Sometimes injectable oxytocin can lead to abnormal heart beat and high blood pressure and can in rare cases cause the uterus to rupture. This is why it is important that your doctor weigh the benefits of inducing labor against the risks and although the process is usually safe there is always a slight risk of side effects including nausea, vomiting and allergic reactions.


On rare occasions, inducing labor can cause the uterus to rupture or can cause placental abruption which is when the placenta separates from the baby and it no longer receives nutrients. The other problem with placental abruption is it can lead to heavy and dangerous bleeding and cause the baby to be stillborn. There are situations when you should not be given drugs to induce; for instance, if you have placenta previa or the baby is in a breech position.


Women are often given pain medication during labor, specifically an epidural, which is an injection into the back near the spine so as to block nerves from feeling pain. In a C-section a woman is given pain medicine like morphine, and then pain medication may be given after delivery. Drugs such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can be given after delivery and are considered safe for the baby. However, if you are breastfeeding, the baby can become very drowsy from the medicine, thus it is important to monitor the baby carefully and to take the absolute minimum of these drugs. Generally, drugs given during labor are those that are believed to be safe for the baby but always think carefully and weigh all the pros and cons before agreeing to be given drugs.