Morphine and opioid drugs are strong, effective painkillers.
You can have these drugs wherever you’re giving birth. However, because they can sometimes have side effects for your baby, they’re less likely to be used if you’re having a home delivery.
How they work
Morphine and opioid drugs are usually given as an injection into a big muscle, such as your buttock or the top of your leg, and:
- take about 15 minutes to work
- last for between 2 and 4 hours
Morphine and opioid drugs work quickly and last for a few hours.
Morphine and opioid drugs can:
- make you feel sleepy and not in control
- make you feel sick, so an anti-sickness medicine's usually given at the same time
- affect your baby’s breathing when they’re born
- make your baby sleepier and less interested in feeding for the first 24 hours
Opioids can affect your baby’s breathing when they’re born, particularly if you have them too close to the birth. If you’re about to give birth your midwife or doctor might suggest you don’t have them for this reason.
Sleeping and feeding
Opiods can make your baby sleepier and less interested in feeding for the first 24 hours. You may need to wake them to feed.
If you have opioid drugs 4 or more hours before the birth:
- the effects have a better chance of wearing off for you
- the effects on your baby can last for up to 48 hours after the birth
Patient-controlled opioid analgesia
You can have opioid drugs given by a pump connected to your drip, which you control yourself with a button. It has a safety lock to reduce the chance of any side-effects. This is called patient-controlled analgesia (PCA).
Some hospitals offer it:
- when you’re in labour
- if you can’t have an epidural
You may need some extra monitoring as it can:
- slow down your breathing
- lower your oxygen levels
The effects of PCA wear off very quickly though. Because you’ll be attached to monitors and a drip, you may not be able to move around as freely.