Childbirth: Opioid Pain Medicines

Overview

To help control the pain and stress of labor, you may get opioid pain medicines. The medicine can be put into a vein or into the muscle. Examples include fentanyl, morphine, and nalbuphine.

Opioids can help suppress how you perceive pain and calm your emotional response to pain. They do this by reducing the number of pain signals sent by the nervous system to the brain. They also reduce the brain's reaction to those pain signals.

An opioid can help you relax between contractions and may help decrease the pain. But it doesn't take all the pain away. And opioids often have side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, and drowsiness. Usually, opioids aren't used right before delivery because they can slow the baby's breathing.

Side effects

The most common side effects of opioids include:

  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded or like you might faint.
  • Feeling drowsy.
  • Feeling sick to your stomach or vomiting.

Opioids aren't used when you are close to delivery. That's because they can affect a newborn's breathing. They can also make the baby sleepy and less interested in breastfeeding if they are given close to delivery.

Credits

Current as of: February 23, 2022

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
John M. Freedman MD - Anesthesiology

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