Labor, Delivery, and Postpartum

Drugs for Pain Control During Labor

Labor and delivery are divided into four stages. During the first stage, the dilating stage, cervical effacement and dilation occur; the cervix thins and becomes fully dilated at 10 cm. The first stage consists of three phases categorized by cervical dilation: the latent phase (0 to 4 cm), the active phase (4 to 7 cm), and the transition phase (8 to 10 cm). The second stage of labor, the pelvic stage, begins with complete cervical dilation and ends with delivery of the newborn (Fig. 50.1). During the third stage of labor, placental separation and expulsion, the placenta separates from the uterine wall and is delivered. The fourth stage of labor, early postpartum, comprises the first 4 hours after the delivery of the placenta, and is a period of physiologic stabilization for the mother and initiation of familial attachment.

During the first stage of labor, uterine contractions produce progressive cervical effacement and dilation. As the first stage of labor progresses, uterine contractions become stronger, longer, and more frequent, and discomfort increases. Pain and discomfort in labor are caused by uterine contraction, cervical dilation and effacement, hypoxia of the contracting myometrium, and perineal pressure from the presenting part. Pain perception is influenced by physiologic, psychological, social, and cultural factors—in particular, the woman’s past experiences with pain, anticipation of pain, fear and anxiety, knowledge deficit of the labor and delivery process, and involvement of support persons.

Before administering pharmacologic treatment, nonpharmacologic measures should be initiated. Nonpharmacologic measures for pain relief during labor include (1) ambulation, (2) effleurage and counterpressure, (3) touch and massage, (4) changing positions and rocking, (5) engaging support persons, (6) breathing and relaxation techniques, (7) transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, (8) application of heat and cold, (9) aromatherapy, and (10) hydrotherapy (warm-water baths or showers).

Other nonpharmacologic measures include alternative and complementary drugs. Of particular concern is the use of herbal supplements by the pregnant patient later in pregnancy to stimulate labor. For example, some women ingest pregnancy toner tea, which includes raspberry, nettle, dandelion, alfalfa, and peppermint leaf. Other herbal supplements used include blue cohosh, castor oil, and evening primrose oil. Pregnant patients may self-administer, or the practice may be part of their traditional beliefs and framework of health. Concerns with herbal supplements are related to the often numerous physiologically active components of the herbs, adulterants, inconsistent dosing, and lack of proven efficacy. Herbs taken in late pregnancy may contribute to preterm labor or increased bleeding during delivery. Nurses must be culturally sensitive to the use of herbal supplements and health practices during pregnancy, specifically in the later gestational weeks.

When pharmacologic intervention is needed for pain relief, drugs are used as an adjunct to nonpharmacologic measures. Drugs should be selected not only to decrease the patient’s pain but also to minimize side effects for the patient and the fetus or neonate. Pain relief in labor can be obtained with systemic analgesics and regional anesthesia, injection of drug near the nerves or spinal canal to numb a specific area of the body (Fig. 50.2). Analgesics alter the patient’s perception and sensation of pain without producing unconsciousness.


FIG. 50.1 First and Second Stages of Labor.

Analgesia and Sedation

Systemic drugs used during labor include sedative-hypnotics, narcotic agonists, and mixed narcotic agonist-antagonists. Secobarbital, a sedative-hypnotic, is administered orally, whereas hydroxyzine is administered orally or intramuscularly. Intravenous (IV) use is considered contraindicated because hydroxyzine is a vesicant. Because of variable response and blood levels with intramuscular (IM) administration, pentobarbital is primarily given intravenously. These drugs should be administered at the onset of the uterine contraction because parenteral administration at the onset decreases neonatal drug exposure because blood flow is decreased to the uterus and fetus.

Table 50.1 lists the analgesics and sedatives commonly used during labor, delivery, and postpartum and their dosages, uses, and considerations.


FIG. 50.2 A, Membranes and spaces of spinal cord and levels of sacral, lumbar, and thoracic nerves. B, Cross-section of vertebra and spinal cord. (From Lowdermilk, D., Perry, S., Cashion, C., & Alden, K. [2012]. Maternity and women’s health care (10th ed.). St. Louis: Mosby.)

The sedative-tranquilizer drugs are most commonly given for false or latent labor or with ruptured membranes without true labor. These drugs may also be administered to minimize maternal anxiety and fear, and although they promote rest and relaxation, they do not provide pain relief. The sedative drugs most commonly used are barbiturates or hypnotics (e.g., secobarbital sodium and pentobarbital sodium). Other drugs, such as hydroxyzine, can be given alone during early labor or in combination with narcotic agonists when the patient is in active labor. In addition to decreasing anxiety and apprehension, hydroxyzine potentiates the analgesic action of the opioids and minimizes emesis. Promethazine, also a phenothiazine derivative, has been noted in studies to impair the analgesic efficacy of opioids and is now only labeled for nausea and vomiting.

The second group of drugs given for active labor is the narcotic agonists. These drugs may be administered parenterally or via regional blocks. When administered with neuraxial anesthesia, a lower dose of anesthetic is required for effective pain relief, thereby minimizing side effects. These drugs interfere with pain impulses at the subcortical level of the brain. To effect pain relief, opioids interact with mu and kappa receptors; for example, morphine sulfate activates both mu and kappa receptors.

Of the narcotic agonists, meperidine is the most commonly prescribed synthetic opioid for pain control during labor. A second narcotic agonist used for pain relief during labor is fentanyl, a short-acting synthetic opioid best administered intravenously because of its short duration of action. Morphine sulfate may also be used for pain control in active labor, but it is less frequently used. High doses of opioids are required for effective labor analgesia when administered parenterally. Opioids are further discussed in Chapter 25.

The third group of systemic drugs used for pain relief in labor is opioids with mixed narcotic agonist-antagonist effects. These drugs exert their effects at more than one site and are often an agonist at one site and an antagonist at another. The two most commonly used narcotic agonist-antagonist drugs are butorphanol tartrate and nalbuphine. A primary advantage of these drugs is their dose-ceiling effect. This means additional doses do not increase the degree of maternal or neonatal respiratory depression, so there is less respiratory depression with these drugs than with opioids. The respiratory depression ceiling effect is believed to result from activation of kappa agonists and weak mu antagonists.

Adverse Reactions

Adverse effects of sedative-hypnotic drugs (secobarbital, pentobarbital) include paradoxically increased pain and excitability, lethargy, subdued mood, decreased sensory perception, and hypotension. Fetal and neonatal side effects include decreased fetal heart rate (FHR) variability and neonatal respiratory depression, sleepiness, hypotonia, and delayed breastfeeding with poor sucking response for up to 4 days.

Side effects of phenothiazine derivatives and antiemetic antihistamines (e.g., promethazine, hydroxyzine) include confusion, disorientation, excess sedation, dizziness, hypotension, tachycardia, blurred vision, headache, restlessness, weakness, and urinary retention with promethazine; drowsiness, dry mouth, dizziness, headache, blurred vision, dysuria, urinary retention, and constipation with hydroxyzine. Decreased FHR variability can occur, and the neonate can experience moderate central nervous system (CNS) depression, hypotonia, lethargy, poor feeding, and hypothermia.

TABLE 50.1

Analgesics Used During Labor, Delivery, and Postpartum






bid, Twice daily; CNS, central nervous system; cont., continuous; FHR, fetal heart rate; h, hour; IM, intramuscular; IV, intravenous; max, maximum; min, minute; PB, protein binding; PO, by mouth; PRN, as needed; q, every; qid, four times daily; subcut, subcutaneously; t½, half-life; tid, three times daily; UK, unknown; USP, U.S. Pharmacopeia; wk, weeks; >, greater than.

 Pregnancy categories have been revised. See for more information.

The adverse effects of opioids depend on the responses activated by the mu and kappa receptors. Activation of mu receptors results in analgesia, sedation, euphoria, decreased gastrointestinal (GI) motility, respiratory depression, and physiologic dependence. Activation of kappa receptors results in analgesia, decreased GI motility, miosis, and sedation. When parenterally administered, the side effects of opioids include nausea, vomiting, sedation, orthostatic hypotension, pruritus, and maternal and neonatal respiratory depression. The associated nausea and vomiting result from stimulation of the chemoreceptor trigger zone in the medulla. Motor block is another concern; mothers may not walk after delivery until they are able to maintain a straight leg raise against downward pressure applied by the practitioner. Fetal and neonatal effects include decreased FHR variability, depression of neonatal respirations, and depression of neonatal neurobehavior. For example, neonatal respiratory depression occurs within 2 to 3 hours after administering meperidine and may require reversal by administration of naloxone. Through inhibition of both mu and kappa receptors, naloxone may reverse the effects of opioids. It is important to note that with maternal administration of naloxone, there will be a subsequent increase in pain.

Narcotic agonist drugs (e.g., morphine, fentanyl) can cause orthostatic hypotension, nausea, vomiting, headache, sedation, hypotension, and confusion. Decreased FHR variability and neonatal CNS depression can occur with meperidine.

Mixed narcotic agonist-antagonist drugs (e.g., butorphanol tartrate, nalbuphine) can cause nausea, clamminess, sweating, sedation, respiratory depression, vertigo, lethargy, headache, and flush. Side effects in the fetus and neonate include decreased FHR variability, moderate CNS depression, hypotonia at birth, and mild behavioral depression.


icon Nursing Process: Patient-Centered Collaborative Care

Pain-Control Drugs


• Assess the patient’s level of pain.

• Assess the patient’s cultural framework to determine beliefs regarding labor and cultural expectations related to pain experiences.

• Assess for use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), including supplements, at any point during the pregnancy.

• Screen for drug history to ascertain the potential for drug-drug interactions.

• Before administering analgesic, obtain vital signs (blood pressure [BP], heart rate [HR]), respiratory status, quality of uterine contractions, degree of effacement and dilation, and FHR; monitor the effectiveness of pain management.

• Assess the laboring patient’s behavior for relaxation and progress of labor in relation to expected norms.

• Assess the patient’s verbal and nonverbal behavior for data supportive or nonsupportive of coping with labor.

Nursing Diagnoses

• Anxiety related to uncertainty about the labor experience and coping ability

• Pain, Acute related to processes of labor and birth

• Fear related to deficient knowledge of processes and birth and expected sensations with analgesic interventions


• The patient will verbalize the desired amount of pain relief during labor.

• The patient will demonstrate minimal to no side effects from pain-control drugs during labor.

• The patient will verbalize a decrease in pain on a scale of 1 to 10 or per the agency’s pain scale.

Nursing Interventions

• Offer analgesia appropriate for the stage and phase of labor and anticipated method of delivery. Encourage the patient and her support persons to participate in decision making about analgesia.

• Document the administration of drugs per agency protocol.

• Provide appropriate safety measures after administration of drugs.

icon Check a compatibility chart for any mixing of drugs.

• Verify that correct antidote drugs are available.

• Within agency protocol, safe obstetric practice, and patient preferences, administer drugs before pain and anxiety reach maximum intensity.

• Assess the patient’s level of pain using an agency-appropriate pain scale 30 to 60 minutes after analgesic administration.

Sedative-Hypnotics: Barbiturates

• Do not give if active labor is imminent.

• Monitor FHR and expect decreased variability.
Phenothiazine Derivatives

• If administered intravenously, give at the onset of uterine contractions. Administer at a rate not to exceed 25 mg/min.

• Monitor the amount of promethazine the patient receives in 24 hours, and monitor maternal heart rate after administration.


• Administer deep IM only (Z-track technique). Do not give subcutaneously or intravenously.

Narcotic Agonists and Mixed Narcotic Agonist-Antagonists

• Assess patient parity, obstetric delivery history, and anticipated time until delivery.

• Because of risk of neonatal respiratory depression, do not administer when delivery is likely within 2 hours.

• Monitor urine output.

• Monitor FHR, assessing for fetal well-being before and during drug administration.


• Fentanyl is not generally given before active labor. Have neonatal and maternal naloxone available as an antidote.

• If drug is administered intravenously, give slowly at the beginning of a contraction and over several minutes to decrease the amount of drug perfused to the fetus via the placenta.

• Assess respirations. They must be greater than 12 per minute before administration.

• Provide a restful environment as adjunctive therapy.

• Keep bed rails up when the patient is nonambulatory, and have the patient solicit assistance with ambulation.

• Monitor FHR, assessing for fetal well-being before and during drug administration.

Butorphanol Tartrate

• Have naloxone available.

• Monitor for signs of narcotic withdrawal in narcotic-dependent patients.

• Monitor for maternal and neonatal respiratory depression.

• Assess respirations. They must be greater than 12 per minute before administration.

• When drug is given intramuscularly, inject deep into the muscle; when given intravenously, administer slowly at the onset of a contraction. Do not administer subcutaneously.

• Provide a restful environment as adjunctive therapy.

• Monitor the FHR tracing, assessing for fetal well-being before and during drug administration.

• Keep bed rails up when the patient is nonambulatory, and have the patient solicit assistance with ambulation.

Patient Teaching


• Advise the patient concerning (1) drugs ordered, (2) route of administration and reason, (3) expected effects of the drug on labor, and (4) potential drug effects on the mother and the fetus or neonate.

• Inform the patient that most drugs used for pain relief in labor and delivery are not given by mouth because the GI tract functions more slowly during labor, and drug absorption is decreased, making the oral route ineffective.

• Counsel the patient about safety precautions to be used while receiving the drug, including (1) positioning in bed, (2) use of side rails, and (3) assistance with ambulation.

icon Cultural Considerations

• Acknowledge and incorporate the patient’s cultural belief framework into nursing care.

• Assess the patient’s use of CAM, including herbal supplements, during pregnancy and labor.

• Recognize cultural influences on the patient’s expression of discomfort and pain.

• Provide an interpreter as appropriate.


• Evaluate effectiveness of the drug in alleviating pain.

• Evaluate fear and anxiety in regard to pain and the ability to cope with labor.

• Monitor maternal respirations, heart rate, BP, uterine contractions, dilation and effacement, and FHR for alterations from baseline. Report deviations beyond those expected with normally progressing labor.

• Document findings using agency protocol and obstetric nursing standards of care.


Anesthesia in labor and delivery represents the loss of painful sensations with or without loss of consciousness. Two types of pain are experienced in childbirth, visceral and somatic. Visceral pain from the cervix and uterus is carried by sympathetic fibers and enters the neuraxis at the thoracic (T10-T12) and lumbar (L1) spinal levels, and early labor pain is transmitted to T11 and T12 with later progression to T10 and L1. Somatic pain is caused by pressure of the presenting part and by stretching of the perineum and vagina. This is the pain of the transition phase and the second stage of labor, and it is transmitted to the sacral (S2-S4) areas by the pudendal nerve. Table 50.2 lists the anesthetics used during labor and delivery and their dosages, uses, and considerations.

Regional Anesthesia

Regional anesthesia achieves pain relief during labor and delivery without loss of consciousness. Injected local anesthetic agents temporarily block conduction of painful impulses along sensory nerve pathways to the brain. Regional anesthesia allows the patient to experience labor and childbirth with relief from discomfort in the blocked area while maintaining consciousness. The two primary types of anesthesia are local anesthetics for local infiltration (e.g., episiotomy) and regional blocks (e.g., epidural, spinal). The most common types of peridural anesthesia are spinal, epidural, and combined spinal-epidural blocks. Other less commonly administered regional blocks include caudal, paracervical, and pudendal blocks. The anesthesiologist or nurse anesthetist is responsible for administering regional anesthesia. Nurses may assist with administration of anesthesia, and they monitor the patient for drug effectiveness and side effects during and after administration.

TABLE 50.2

Anesthetic Used in Obstetrics

Drug Route and Dosage Uses and Considerations
Chloroprocaine Lumbar epidural block: 2% or 3%, 2 to 2.5 mL per segment; usual start volume is 15-25 mL; max: single dose (with epinephrine 1:200,000), 14 mg/kg; total dose, 750 mg
An ester-type local anesthetic that stabilizes the neuronal membranes and prevents initiation and transmission of nerve impulses, affecting local anesthetic actions (local or pudendal block)

Duration: Up to 60 min. Pregnancy category C; PB: UK; t½: 21-25 sec
Tetracaine 0.2%, 0.3%
Spinal anesthesia:

Lower abd: 9-12 mg of 0.3%

Perineum: 3-6 mg of 0.3%

Saddle block: 2-4 mg of 0.2%; max: 15 mg

Other anesthesia dosages available.

An ester-type local anesthetic that blocks both initiation and conduction of nerve impulses by decreasing neuronal membrane permeability to sodium ions; a low spinal block or spinal anesthesia for cesarean delivery

Pregnancy category C; PB: UK; t½: UK
Lidocaine injectable 50-75 mg of 5% solution; max: 4 mg/kg/dose or 300 mg per procedure when used without epinephrine
Suppresses automaticity of conduction tissue by increasing the electrical stimulation threshold of the ventricle; blocks both initiation and conduction of nerve impulses by decreasing neuronal membrane permeability to sodium ions

Onset: 45-90 s; duration: 10-20 min. Pregnancy category B; PB 60%-80%; t½: 1.5-2 h
Epidural block: 3-4 mL increments IV or intrathecal administration of 10-20 mL of 0.25% or 0.5%

The 0.75% concentration is not recommended for obstetric anesthesia; reports of cardiac arrest with difficult resuscitation and death have been reported.

Epidural or spinal for labor and cesarean delivery; blocks both initiation and conduction of nerve impulses by decreasing neuronal membrane permeability to sodium ions

Onset: Up to 17 min; duration: epidural, 2-7.7 h; spinal, 1.5-2.5 h.

Pregnancy category C; PB: 84%-95%; t½: 2.7 h
Lumbar epidural block for cesarean section: 20-30 mL dose of 0.5% solution or 15-20 mL of 0.75% solution in incremental doses

Doses available for vaginal obstetric anesthesia as incremental administration or continuous infusion.

Epidural for cesarean delivery; blocks both initiation and conduction of nerve impulses by decreasing neuronal membrane permeability to sodium ions

Onset: 3-15 min; duration: 3-15 h. Pregnancy category C; PB: UK; t½: 5-7 h

abd, Abdomen; h, hour; IV, intravenous; max, maximum dosage; min, minute; PB, protein binding; t½, half-life; UK, unknown.

 Pregnancy categories have been revised. See for more information.

 The following nursing considerations apply to all types of epidurals: Use a test dose (3 mL of lidocaine 1.5% with 1:200,000 epinephrine) to confirm correct catheter placement. If a local anesthetic is injected into a vein, the patient may experience dizziness, ringing in the ears, numbness, a metallic taste in the mouth, or a toxic response. Maternal lateral positioning is done to prevent aortocaval compression. Maternal diastolic blood pressure (BP) should be less than 110 mm Hg before initiating the epidural. When maternal hypotension occurs, place the patient on her left side, infuse IV fluids rapidly, and administer ephedrine 5 to 10 mg IV or 100 mcg phenylephrine IV. Repeat as necessary. Monitor BP every 1 to 2 min for the first 10 min, then every 10 to 30 min until the block wears off. Assess the level of analgesia. After administration of the anesthetic, assess motor strength prior to ambulation.

Women receiving parenteral analgesic for labor and delivery may require more focused anesthesia for episiotomies and repair of perineal lacerations. Local anesthetic drugs may be administered alone, and the anesthetic drug primarily administered is lidocaine. Burning at the site of injection is the most common side effect.

Spinal anesthesia, also known as a saddle block, is injected in the subarachnoid space at the T10 to S5 dermatome. This anesthesia may be administered as a single dose or as a combined spinal-epidural block. Spinal anesthesia is administered immediately before delivery or late in the second stage, when the fetal head is on the perineal floor. Drugs frequently administered either alone or in combination with the local anesthetic for a vaginal delivery include bupivacaine with fentanyl. Dosages vary depending on whether administration of the anesthetic agent is plain or with epinephrine. Bupivacaine 0.75% concentration is not recommended for obstetric anesthesia due to reports of cardiac arrest with difficult resuscitation or death. Spinal anesthesia has a rapid onset, requires less local anesthetic, and may be used with high-risk patients. Postdural puncture headache is a primary concern and occurs 6 to 48 hours after dural puncture; it may also occur after accidental dural puncture with epidural anesthesia. Treatment for postdural headache includes analgesics, increased fluids, and bed rest. An epidural blood patch is the most effective means to treat postdural headache.

Lumbar epidurals may be administered as a single injection, by intermittent injection, as continuous patient-controlled epidural anesthesia (PCEA), or as a combined spinal-epidural block. Epidurals may be administered as a single anesthetic drug or with opioids or epinephrine. Most frequently, patients now receive a continuous epidural infusion, which provides more consistent drug levels and more effective pain relief. Rescue doses are given as necessary to achieve pain relief.

Opioids are administered with the local anesthetic to more effectively control the somatic pain of transition and second-stage labor. The opioids most frequently used in combination with the local anesthetic (bupivacaine, ropivacaine) are fentanyl or sufentanil, lipophilic opioids commonly used with continuous or patient-controlled epidural; these opioids offer rapid analgesia and fewer side effects than hydrophilic opioids. In contrast, morphine sulfate and hydromorphone are hydrophilic opioids, which have a slower onset of action, variable duration, and increased side effects, specifically respiratory depression (Table 50.2).

Another additive to the local anesthetic is epinephrine, which increases the duration of the local anesthetic, decreases its uptake and clearance from the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), and enhances the intensity of the neural blockade. Single and intermittent injections have wide variations in drug levels and provide less effective control of pain. A continuous lumbar epidural allows a more evenly spaced drug level; less anesthetic is required to provide more effective pain control. Continuous-infusion PCEA gives the patient better control of her anesthesia Often single and intermittent injections and PCEA will require rescue doses to improve analgesia.

Lastly, combined spinal-epidural analgesia couples the rapid analgesia and specificity of catheter placement of spinal anesthesia with the continuous infusion via catheter of epidural anesthesia, providing pain relief for later labor.

Controversy exists regarding the effect of regional analgesia, specifically epidurals, on the progress of labor. Some studies indicate no significant effect on labor, whereas other research has demonstrated a decreased maternal urge to push and increased length of labor.

Anesthesia for cesarean delivery may be general, spinal, or epidural. General anesthesia, although rarely used, may be necessary for emergency deliveries, when spinal or epidural anesthesia are contraindicated. It allows for rapid anesthesia induction and control of the airway. Before the administration of general anesthesia, antacids or other drugs that reduce gastric secretions are given to decrease gastric acidity. See Unit XIII: Gastrointestinal Drugs for more information on acid reducers. More commonly, spinal or epidural anesthesia is administered for cesarean births. Spinal anesthesia is the more common choice for cesarean delivery because of rapid onset, increased reliability, and improvement in spinal needle design (smaller gauge and shape [Sprotte needle]) with subsequent reduction in postdural headaches. With spinal anesthesia, the local anesthetic most commonly administered is bupivacaine with fentanyl; pain relief begins in 5 minutes and lasts for approximately 2 hours. Sufentanil or morphine may also be administered. With the additives, spinal anesthesia provides 18 to 24 hours of pain relief. For epidural inductions, the test dose of lidocaine with epinephrine—followed by administration of local anesthetics—is given. This is followed by a bolus or maintenance infusion with anesthetics with or without opioids and/or epinephrine to maintain maternal comfort. The nurse should assess the level of analgesia and motor block at least hourly. Monitor for complications, such as cardiovascular or central nervous system toxicity, postdural puncture headache, fetal bradycardia, or respiratory depression.


icon Nursing Process: Patient-Centered Collaborative Care

Regional Anesthetics


• Check the patient’s history for drug sensitivity to local anesthetic agents.

• Assess the patient’s labor plan with expectations for coping with labor and beliefs about use of analgesia and anesthesia.

• Assess the patient’s knowledge about regional anesthesia.

• Assess cervical dilation and effacement and labor progress.

• Monitor fetal status.

• Review the patient’s history for contraindications to regional anesthesia; notify the anesthesia provider.

Nursing Diagnoses

• Fear related to deficient knowledge of regional anesthesia/analgesia and expected sensations

• Pain, Acute related to processes of labor and delivery

• Gas Exchange, Risk for Impaired (fetal)

• Tissue Perfusion, Ineffective (maternal/fetal) related to the effects of analgesia/anesthesia and maternal position

• Mobility, Impaired related to paresthesia secondary to regional anesthesia

• Urinary Retention, Risk for


• The patient will verbalize the desired amount of pain relief during labor.

• The patient will remain normotensive and will maintain a normal pulse rate; FHR will remain within normal parameters.

• The patient will not experience bladder distension.

• The patient will be able to discuss use of regional anesthesia for labor and delivery pain control.

Nursing Interventions


icon Assess hydration status before regional anesthesia is given; monitor for anesthetic hypotensive effects. Provide bolus IV fluids as ordered, usually 500 to 1000 mL before regional anesthesia administration.

• Insert an indwelling urinary catheter before administration to monitor maternal fluid status.

• Position and support the patient on her left side or as instructed by the anesthesia provider.

• Monitor labor progress for any decrease in frequency or intensity of uterine contractions.

icon Monitor maternal vital signs and FHR.

icon Have oxygen and emergency drugs, including ephedrine and antihistamines, available along with resuscitation equipment.

• Be aware of how to place a patient in Trendelenburg position (supine on a surface inclined 45 degrees, head at the lower end and legs flexed over the upper end) if necessary.

• Monitor for postdural puncture headache; notify the anesthesia provider.


• Assess uterine contractions; anesthetic drugs must be given immediately after a contraction.

icon Monitor BP for hypotensive effects per agency protocol; this is generally a decrease in systolic BP greater than 20% to 30% of baseline or below 100 mm Hg.

icon Have oxygen with positive-pressure ventilation equipment readily available.

• Assess level of analgesia following administration and sensory and motor status following delivery.

• Document procedures per agency protocol.


icon Ensure that the patient has 500 to 1000 mL IV bolus of an isotonic solution before the procedure to increase circulatory volume and prevent maternal hypotension.

• Monitor FHR and progress of labor, and keep in mind that anesthetic can inhibit fetal descent.

icon Monitor BP for hypotensive effects per agency protocol.

• Assess the level of analgesia following administration.

icon If maternal hypotension occurs, maintain the patient on her left side and increase the rate of IV fluids per agency protocol. Notify the health care provider immediately.

• Assess for bladder distension. If voiding cues are unsuccessful (e.g., placement in semi-Fowler position, privacy, running water over the perineum, running water over the hand), catheterize the patient.

• Before allowing the patient to ambulate after delivery, assess sensory and motor status.

icon Conduct ongoing pain assessment. If the nature of the patient’s pain changes, contact the anesthesia provider to evaluate anesthesia needs.

• Document procedures per agency protocol.


• Place the patient in the position requested by the anesthesia provider for administration.

Paracervical Block

• Maintain continuous FHR monitoring for fetal bradycardia after administration.

• Monitor maternal BP.

Patient Teaching


• Discuss technique, potential benefits, and side effects of the patient’s particular method of anesthesia.

Side Effects

• Instruct the patient that regional anesthetics may slow labor and that she may need a drug to enhance uterine contractions.

icon Assess the patient for postdural puncture headache after spinal anesthesia or after accidental dural puncture with epidural anesthesia. Advise the patient that bed rest, oral analgesics, caffeine, or an autologous blood patch may be used for headache pain relief.


• Teach the patient how to curl into position for epidural administration.

• Advise the patient that forceps or vacuum extraction may be needed for delivery because of reduction of the “urge to push” sensation.

• Teach the patient how to assume the left lateral or other position as requested by the anesthesia provider for caudal anesthesia.

icon Advise a patient receiving epidural anesthesia that she will have an IV and close monitoring of FHR and uterine contractions secondary to anesthesia.


• Evaluate BP compared with preprocedure baseline; evaluate FHR for alterations in variability and for decelerations.

• Evaluate effectiveness of anesthetic in relieving discomfort. Evaluate for uniformity of anesthesia; if there is lateralization or if it is “patchy,” notify the anesthesia provider.

• Assess for bladder distension. If voiding cues are unsuccessful, catheterize the patient.

• Before allowing the patient to ambulate after delivery, assess sensory and motor status.

• Evaluate the uterine fundus for firmness.

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Apr 8, 2017 | Posted by in PHARMACY | Comments Off on Labor, Delivery, and Postpartum
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