Interventions: Intravenous & Oxytocin

By Theresa Agnew, RN, BScN, BA (SDS) & Roseanne Hickey, RN, BN, MSc(N), IBCLC on March 12, 2007
Intervention With Medications: When a little extra help is needed

Intravenous (IV)

Labour is hard work; nutrients and fluids are needed throughout labour for mother and the baby. As labour progresses, many women do not wish to eat or drink, and may become nauseated and vomit. Ice chips and sips of fluids may help.

An IV is most often used during labour to administer medications such as Pitocin (see next column) or antibiotics. Antibiotics may be needed if the bacteria Group B Streptococcus has been found in your vagina during pregnancy.

  • Fluids can be provided to the woman through intravenous (IV) placed into a vein (usually in the arm).
  • An IV is needed for giving blood and replacing fluids. It is also required when an epidural is used for pain relief, or when a general anesthetic is needed.
  • An IV may restrict mobility and feel uncomfortable.

Oxytocin/Prostaglandins

These are drugs which are used to start or strengthen labour contractions. They are sometimes given if the baby is overdue, if labour is not progressing, or if the water (amniotic sac) has broken for some time but contractions have not yet begun.

Prostaglandin E is usually given through the vagina in gel or tampon-like form to ripen the cervix.

In some health care centres, you can go home after the administration of prostaglandins and wait for your labour to begin.

  • Synthetic forms of oxytocin, such as Pitocin or Syntocinon, are usually given intravenously.
  • Contractions may be stronger and more painful with these medications. A higher rate of caesarean births is associated with their use. LB


Theresa Agnew, RN, BScN, BA (SDS), is a former instructor in the School of Nursing, Ryerson Polytechnic University and is a former prenatal instructor. She now works as a nurse practitioner at a community health centre in Toronto, Ont.

Roseanne Hickey works at Sunnybrook and Women's College Health Sciences Centre as a nurse in labour and delivery and has taught prenatal classes for many years.

Published in March 2007

By Theresa Agnew, RN, BScN, BA (SDS) & Roseanne Hickey, RN, BN, MSc(N), IBCLC| March 12, 2007

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