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Is an IV in place during labor?
Q: Will I need to have an IV during labor?
A: An intravenous line (or IV) is a thin tube placed within your vein to allow fluids or medications to be administered into your bloodstream. Typically, IVs are placed on your forearm or hand, preferably in an area that doesn't restrict mobility during labor. Some hospitals require all laboring women to have IV access during labor. In this case, an intravenous line or a heparin lock, a device that keeps the IV port functional and in place but not attached to running fluids, would be in place during labor.

Other hospitals only require intravenous fluids for women who are at higher risk for hemorrhage, fetal distress or Caesarean section. When medical situations require immediate action, having an intravenous line ready can save time and facilitate emergency treatment.

Even if your caregiver doesn't require a routine IV, there are many reasons why an IV may become necessary during labor. Some of these are listed below.

  • If you become dehydrated and can't take sufficient quantities of oral fluids.
  • If you request an epidural for anesthesia, intravenous fluids reduce the likelihood that the epidural will result in a drop in blood pressure.
  • If you've had a C-section in the past, there is a small chance that the uterine scar could tear during labor, which would necessitate an immediate repeat Caesarean.
  • If you require medication such as antibiotics or Pitocin® (to induce stronger contractions) that must be given intravenously.
  • If your baby's fetal heart rate tracing shows signs of distress.

There is a lot of variation between healthcare providers and between hospitals. You should talk with your provider to learn about his or her expectations.

Laura E. Stachel M.D. Obstetrician & Gynecologist