When needles make you squeamish, the thought of having an IV during labor and delivery may have you climbing out of your skin. However, even in pregnancy, there may be options when it comes to intravenous lines. From the benefits to the alternatives, find out whether routine IVs are necessary during labor.

The scoop on IVs

An intravenous line, also known as an IV, is a small plastic catheter inserted into a vein. An IV can be inserted into the top of your hand, inside the bend of your arm or into your wrist for a number of reasons before, during or after labor and delivery. However, during a normal, routine labor and delivery, an IV may be optional.

Pros and cons of an intravenous line

Though you may have survived all the blood tests you've had throughout your pregnancy, you may not understand the benefits and disadvantages of an IV. Some of the positive reasons to have an intravenous line during labor and delivery include:

  • Helps keep you hydrated during labor
  • Reduces need to be stuck with a needle repeatedly for labor and delivery medications
  • Permits you to have an epidural

However, a routine IV may also pose some shortcomings. The negative side of having an IV may include:

  • Initial insertion can be painful
  • IV lines can get tangled while changing positions or moving about
  • May prevent you from opting for a shower or tub during labor

Alternatives to a routine IV

Routine IVs may not be your only option when faced with labor and delivery woes. Clear fluids can keep you hydrated without having to be stuck with an IV. Or you can limit the chances of getting tangled in the IV line by asking for a heparin catheter, which is inserted into your vein, taped off and line-free until needed. Furthermore, low-risk, IV-fearing women can limit their distress by requesting that the IV is inserted later during active labor.

Instead of waiting until the labor and delivery room to ask if routine IVs are necessary during labor, it's a topic you'll want to discuss when you're choosing your OB-GYN. Each physician may have a different intravenous line philosophy, which may ultimately make a big difference in your birthing experience when you fear needles -- even when your bundle of joy is the end result.

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Maria Mora May 30, 2012
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I had to fight for a hep lock with my second labor. The nurse didn't want to do it, but it was within my right and there was no medical reason not to. Another nurse came in, laughed, and said of course we can do that, it's fine! It makes me a little crazy how much women have to educate themselves if they want to have any control over the labor and delivery process. :(