Pregnancy guide > Labour and birth > Pain relief > Pain relief in labour: Pethidine

Pain relief in labour: Pethidine

Useful information about the various drugs given during labour to relieve the pain of giving birth with informatin on pethidine and meptid.
Pethidine is a pain relieving drug usually given by an injection into the muscle of your leg or buttock. It takes about 20 minutes to work and is effective for around 3 hours.

Pethidine helps you to relax and may lessen the pain of your contractions. It can also speed up your labour, but it does not work for everyone, and it often causes side effects. Vomiting is common after having pethidine, so an anti sickness drug is usually given with it. Other side effects include; feeling shaky, light headed and disorientated. The more of the drug you have, the more likely you are to suffer these effects. The usual dose of pethidine is 100mg, but you may choose to have less.

Pethidine very quickly crosses the placenta and reaches the baby. If you have an injection of pethidine 2 to 4 hours before you deliver, your baby's breathing will be affected and occasionally an antidote needs to be given.

Most babies are fine, but they do tend to be a little more sleepy in the first few days and take longer to establish feeding.

Midwives are able to give pethidine without a doctor's prescription and it is the drug most commonly used, but there are alternatives.

Meptid or Meptazinol

Meptid is similar to pethidine but causes fewer side effects in mother and baby. Nausea and vomiting are the only unwanted effects that still tend to be a problem. Because it does not make you feel sleepy, meptid is often used for women having water-births.


Diamorphine is very effective at relieving pain in labour. It tends to give you a feeling of well being and causes less nausea and vomiting that pethidine.

There is some evidence that babies exposed to diamorphine in the womb, are more likely to become addicted to the drug in later life. For this reason, most Maternity Units do not use it.

The action of any pain relieving drug is unpredictable, and the associated side effects can be a problem. Having said this, many women benefit greatly from having a pain relieving injection during labour. If you are able to choose which injection to have, meptid is probably the best option.

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I can honestly say I only had one child because of Pethidine! I was 5cms, taken down to delivery and injected without being asked. My memories of my labour are of being violently sick, kneeling on a cold, white tiled bathroom floor with my hands between my legs to stop the baby falling out I was retching so deeply. I didn't ask for this drug to be given. In some ways I am still angry, my total labour was 8 hrs and 26 minutes and that was with an epidural in the end as I tried to go home as i'd had enough! Our son Tommy is 21 this year, he was and is the best experience.
by mudal 20th Jun 2013, 3:08pm
did anybody use Meptid/Meptazinol? just wondering if it can be administered 2-4 hours before delivery, unlike the pethidine. first time mom, really freaked out about labour pain. pls help! thank you. Julia
by iuliaproca 23rd Aug 2010, 10:22am
i had pethidine when i was in labour with both my sons. it was given by an injection in my thigh. it made me feel very dizzy and sick so i was kept in bed until i delivered my sons. i also had an epidual with my 1st son and a spinal block and epidural with 2nd son. i am currently 10 weeks pregnant with baby number 3 so am thinking of opting for another dose of pethidine rather than an epidural 3rd time around.
by kellyf 8th Jun 2009, 9:21am
does any1 know what drugs they use in australia i know this is a Uk site but im from australia and wondering do they use TENS machines ??
by teenmummy69 13th Jan 2009, 9:16am