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Home :: Intervention :: Morphine/Pethidine

Mother needing assistance to breast-feed after receiving pethadine during the birth

Mother needing assistance to breast-feed after receiving pethidine during the birth

Pethidine is given by injection into your muscle. This drug is a narcotic like heroin and methadone.

The baby will be affected as they freely cross through the placenta.

When the drug reaches the brain, it affects the pain centre and usually affects other parts, which creates drowsiness.

Pethidine is a weak analgesic but a strong respiratory depressant. After a single dose there is a higher concentration in the baby than is the mother, and it can be detected in the newborn baby for 62 hours – Sheila Kitzinger

The use of narcotics in labour (pethidine and morphine) can be detrimental to breastfeeding as the baby experiences feelings of being drugged and can find attachment or even the desire to feed difficult.

Research in Sweden has found that a significant proportion of drug addicts were born to mothers who had been given opiates or barbiturates during childbirth. Hire, Doris “Obstetric Drugs and procedures: Their effects on mothers and Baby” AIMS Australian Quarterly Journal Vole 1 No 6 1994.


  • May take the edge off the pain
  • May make you more relaxed

thdownNegatives — Mother

  • Does not remove the pain altogether
  • Disconnects you from the birth process
  • Drowsiness / sedation
  • Depression
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Perspiring
  • Suppression of breathing
  • Disorientation
  • Dizzy
  • Constipation
  • Addiction
  • Itching

thdownNegative — Baby

  • Loss of protective airway reflexes
  • Hypoxia due to respiratory depression
  • Central nervous system depression
  • Respiratory depression
  • Impaired early breastfeeding
  • Altered neurological behavior
  • Decreased ability to regulate body temperature

She cried as soon as she was out, but soon turned a bit blue and lifeless. They had warned me about that with the Morphine and had a shot of Diactin ready. – Laura

I find it amazing that we will spend 9 months worrying about every thing that we eat, what cleaning products are in our house, we even stop colouring our hair. Then hours before our child is born it’s OK to take narcotics so the first time you look into your baby’s eyes you’re both stoned! – Jen


Birth Stories

Dr B said he would need to use clamps and that the more I pushed the less he would have to pull. So we coordinated our efforts and while I pushed, he cut me (DP heard the snip), stuck the salad tongs in and grabbed Bub’s head. I pushed, screamed and hollered, and he pulled (turning Bub at the same time) and shortly thereafter Bub’s head emerged. Read more.


A study that looked at the birth records of 200 opiate addicts born in Stockholm from 1945 to 1966 and compared them with the birth records of their non-addicted siblings. When the mothers had received opiates, barbiturates, and/or nitrous oxide gas during labor, especially in multiple doses, the offspring were more likely to become drug addicted. For example, when a mother received three doses of opiates, her child was 4.7 times more likely to become addicted to opiate drugs in adulthood. Jacobson B, et al. Opiate addiction in adult offspring through possible imprinting after obstetric treatment. Br Med J  1990;301(6760):1067-70. 


10.07% Private Hospital Induction rates (NSW)

20.12% Public Hospital Induction rates(NSW)

(Source: NSW Mothers & Babies Report 2009)

Check your local hospital induction rates here in our Birth Services Revealed.




Griffith Base 48.30%

(Source: NSW Mothers & Babies Report 2009)

Check your local hospital IM narcotics rates here in our Birth Services Revealed.

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