IV Fluids During Labor & Delivery - Risks & Other Alternatives

IV Fluids During Labor – Important Things to Know

Giving birth and its experience differ from person to person – firstly, because your bodies are different, and secondly, because of the place and hospital you give birth in. In some hospitals, it’s a standard practice to put you on routine IV during labor, while some inject it only when the need arises.

IVs should not be administered without need. It is because an IV might turn out to be an intervention during labor. So, if the expecting mother doesn’t need an IV, it can lead to unnecessary complications.

To put everything in simple words, let us discuss everything around it. It will help you understand the pros and cons behind it. Also, you will be able to say NO in case you feel there is no need to put an IV in your scenario. Let’s get started!

What Is an IV? 

The acronym IV stands for ‘intravenous. So, the IV or the intravenous line is a plastic catheter inserted in your vein (either in hand or lower arm) to pass a medication or fluid as and when required.

A woman in labor can be given an IV before, after, or during delivery. It is optional and depends on the doctor and the patient’s condition. So, let us now discuss how crucial or irrelevant the IV during childbirth is.

When Is an IV Needed? 

Labor pain involves putting extreme pressure. Women also experience severe menstrual cramps during labor. So, it is a tough job to push out a baby. 

And to perform this hard work, it is crucial to keep yourself hydrated. Some hospitals do not allow the expecting mother to eat or drink during pregnancy. In such cases, IV comes into the picture.

Other reasons where an IV is required, irrelevant of the type of delivery (vaginal or C-section) are:

  • You are required to be given antibiotics or IV pain meds during labor.
  • You require an epidural.
  • You will have a C-section delivery.
  • You have high-risk complications already.
  • In case you develop complications before or during labor, and you need medication for it.
  • You require Pitocin.

When Is IV Not Needed? 

An IV is not required when it is given on the name of the routine protocol in labor. Some hospitals do not allow the expecting mother to eat or drink anything through the mouth. In such a scenario, the doctor says, ‘we are giving it to keep you hydrated during labor.’ Labor pains can go on for several hours. Ideally, if you have no complicated medical history and have a normal labor, and are allowed to eat and drink (as labor can be long) as needed, you will not need an IV. 

Conclusively, if the reason for putting an IV is not listed in the previous paragraph, then IV is put only as a routine procedure that can be avoided.

What Are the Risks of Taking an IV? 

What Are the Risks of Taking an IV?

Unnecessary hydration can pose certain risks to your body. Here are some side effects:

1. Edema 

It is the swelling of the various body parts due to excessive fluid retention. The prescribed limit for IV fluids during labor is 100 to 200 ml/hour. So supposedly, if a woman goes into 15 hours of labor, it amounts to 1.5-3 liters of fluid. It can cause painful swelling in various parts of the body, including the breasts. The body already has to lose excessive fluid that got accumulated during the pregnancy term. So, hydrating beyond the limit can cause complications that last for days.

2. Challenges in Breastfeeding 

Due to swelling in the breasts, the newborn will find it difficult to latch for a feed. It might also make breastfeeding a painful procedure for the mother. Due to latching difficulty, there is no proper stimulation for milk production, as is the case with a proper latch. It might force you to start using formula milk, and in turn, as the demand goes down, the body starts reducing the milk formation. In such a case, the edema makes pumping difficult even when the newbie mother tries to pump.

3. Restricted Movement 

Your hand inserted with a plastic catheter might change your birthing story. It can restrict your movement in the labor room. Also, successful delivery is a result of correct hormone production in your body. If you don’t feel comfortable and safe during the birthing process, it affects your hormones too. Active labor is always beneficial, in which case, an IV can make your movements restricted. Your hand might become difficult and sore due to elongated hours of IV. This will, in turn, affect the labor.  

4. Significant Weight Loss of the Newborn

It is quite evident that whatever a mother consumes during pregnancy is absorbed by the child as well. So, when the mother is injected with IV fluid, the child absorbs that too. This retained fluid poses for a dramatic weight loss in the child after delivery.

Alternatives to IV 

If the reason for inserting an IV line is hydration, you can ask the doctor to eat and drink instead, on-demand. This will keep you hydrated. If the reason is administering painkillers through IV, then there are some non-medicinal ways to do the same. These days some classes train you to cope with the pain.

Keep in mind that it’s your body, and you can speak to your doctor or caregiver the way you want to give birth. Communication is the key, and the doctor will do the best for you and your child.

It will help if you trust your doctor by all means. Discuss your birth plans beforehand. Some hospitals have IV administration as a non-negotiable medication. Check with your hospital for policies related to birthing well in advance. And if putting an IV is necessary in your case, ask the caregiver to put it in your forearm. Forearm IVs are easy to move and cause lesser irritation. Have a happy birthing story!

Also Read:

Foetal Station in Labor
Entonox during Labor
Usage of Oxytocin in Labor

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