IV Fluids During Labor: To Administer Or Not?

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Intravenous fluid, shortened as ‘IV fluids’ are solutions that are medically administered to provide the body with water, salt, and glucose. IV lines or IV fluids are a common sight in the medical arena. Whether you’re in for observation or major surgery, one of the first things that a nurse does is to put you on an IV line. So, is the use of IV fluid during labor or childbirth recommended? In many cases, you can totally opt for IV fluids and your doctor might even suggest it. However, in certain situations, it might not be that favorable. This calls for a better understanding of the effects of IV fluids on laboring mothers. Read on to find out about IV fluids, why they’re necessary during labor, and the side effects you might face if you use them:

What Is An IV?

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An IV Line or intravenous line is a tube that is attached to the veins of the arms, near the wrist,  for the transfer of important nutrients, salts, and other essential substances to the body. It is usually administered when the patient cannot consume food on their own (1). It is also of great help when people are suffering from dehydration and the body is unable to absorb the essential micronutrients. The IV lines bypass the natural system to provide the essentials directly through the bloodstream.

Why Are IV Fluids Used During Labor?

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The use of IV is a standard procedure not just for labor and delivery but in most clinical situations. The whole idea is to safely administer medications and fluids without the need for multiple injections. During labor, the chances are that you might need certain medicines during the procedure. Sometimes, you may get dehydrated, or you might need an epidural. Instead of administering medications orally or injecting you multiple times, using an IV line is a better and faster option (2).

More often than not, you will be put on an NPO, which essentially means “nothing by mouth”. This means that during your labor, you will not be allowed to consume anything orally. The reason why doctors suggest an NPO is to avoid the possibility of pulmonary aspiration or, in other words, inhalation of gastric contents you have ingested when you are under anesthesia. This is rare, but still, a possibility that doctors would like to avoid. While NPO is believed to be necessary, it may clash with a few other requirements. For example, you may need electrolytes during labor to prevent dehydration, give you energy, and avoid hyponatremia. When in such situations, an IV line will be used during labor (3).

When Are They Necessary?

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There may be many instances during labor where an IV line will be required. Some of them are as follows:

1. To Administer Antibiotics

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In some cases, you might require antibiotics during your labor. This particularly applies to those who suffer from Group B Strep to ensure that the child is protected when they encounter the infection (4). An IV line is a great way to safely administer antibiotics to the body. And it is also a faster route compared to oral administering, and therefore particularly helpful during emergency situations.

2. When You Need An Epidural

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An epidural is a clinical procedure during labor, where the doctor injects a local anesthetic to a particular area in your lower spinal nerves. With the help of an epidural, you will be able to manage the pain you experience, particularly when you have to push the baby out. By blocking the pain, it becomes slightly easier for you to push. During the administration of an epidural, some women might experience low blood pressure. To deal with a drop in blood pressure, medications will be given through an IV line (5).

3. To Induce Labor

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In some cases, natural hormones may be needed to induce labor. One such hormone is Pitocin or oxytocin. This is a peptide hormone, which can help increase the number of uterine contractions you have during labor. It can also help with the reduction or regulation of bleeding soon after childbirth. IV lines come in handy to induce labor in these situations (6).

4. During A C-Section

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C-Sections are a full-fledged surgical procedure, which will require medications both during and after childbirth. During a C-Section, IV fluids will be needed for various reasons, such as preventing dehydration and administering drugs. The mother will not be able to consume the food before or after the procedure, so nutrition will be administered via the IV line (7).

Side Effects Of IV Fluids During Labor

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An IV line is sometimes necessary, but there may be cases where you can opt-out of it. This is, however, only allowed if there is absolutely no risk. Although beneficial, IV fluids can have a few disadvantages, such as:

1. Movement Won’t Be Easy

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You may not be able to move with ease. This may seem insignificant at first, but labor is an uncomfortable process. There may be times when you want to lie down, and there may be times when you even want to walk around. Comfort plays a considerable role during labor, as hormones necessary for childbirth are released when you have a sense of safety and comfort (8). The presence of IV lines attached to your wrists can make mobility difficult. So it’s better to have a discussion on when and how long you need IV lines with your medical attendant.

2. It May Impact The Weight Of Your Child

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Studies have been conducted to observe the impact of IV fluids during labor on your child. It was found that if the mother has been administered a lot of IV fluids during childbirth, the newborn may suffer from weight loss later (7). So care must be taken to use only the necessary amount of IV transfer and not overdo it.

3. It Can Cause Swelling

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Swelling is a common side effect of IV fluids. If you’ve been given IV fluids, you will easily receive close to a hundred or two hundred milliliters of liquid on an hourly basis. That can amount to close to two to four liters of IV fluid in average labor of twenty hours. In addition to all the water weight, you would have gained, this would lead to excess water retention, especially in your breasts, legs, and hands (9).

Although you have the option of not choosing IV fluids during labor, it is essential to know that sometimes, it may be necessary. It can also be used as a preventative measure, particularly when you get dehydrated. It is best to consult your doctor and understand where you stand and if you’re in a position to choose not to use IV fluids. What are your thoughts on this? Let us know in the comments below!


MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
  1. Venous Access
  2. Peripheral Intravenous Catheterisation in Obstetric Patients in the Hand or Forearm Vein: A Randomised Trial
  3. NPO During Labor. Is There Any Scientific Validation?
  4. Preventing Group B Strep Disease in Newborns
  5. Pregnancy and birth: Epidurals and painkillers for labor pain relief
  6. Induction of Labor
  7. Intrapartum Intravenous Fluids For Cesarean Delivery And Newborn Weight Loss: A Retrospective Cohort Study
  8. Safe Healthy Birth: What Every Pregnant Woman Needs to Know
  9. Maternal Intravenous Fluids And Postpartum Breast Changes: A Pilot Observational Study
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