Updated: Jul 13, 2022
A common question for moms seeking a natural hospital birth is "Do I need to get an IV during labor?" I've asked this question my self many times, and after giving birth a few times and witnessing quite a few births, I thought it would be a good time to talk about declining an IV during childbirth.
Why do you need an IV in labor?
When you're admitted to the hospital, standard practice is to place a saline-lock (also called hep-lock) for IV access in case of an emergency. During labor in a hospital it is very common that women will receive IV fluids for various reasons including: administration of IV antibiotics, IV fluids for dehydration, IV fluids before and during epidural administration, emergency situations.
Even if you aren't anticipating needing antibiotics or an epidural, many providers will want you to have IV access in case of an emergency. Placing an IV during an emergency, especially if you are dehydrated, can be time consuming and lead to delays in life-saving care.
But do you really need an IV in labor?
Why some women decline IV's in labor...
Despite the reasons listed above, many women still do not want an IV in labor until it is absolutely necessary. Reasons include fear of needles, comfort preferences, and a desire to maintain a low-intervention birth experience. Many of the women choosing to decline an IV do understand that it will be extremely important for them to maintain hydration without an IV (ie - drinking plenty of fluids) and they understand that if something changes with their birth plan, an IV may become necessary.
Do women in birthing centers or birthing at home need IV access?
Many times women birthing at home or in a birth center will not have a saline-lock during labor and opt to get an IV only if and when it is medically necessary.
Some people might think, then, that women who don't want an IV should opt for out of hospital birth. Unfortunately due to provider restrictions, insurance and financial restrictions, this may not be an option for all.
What should I do if I am birthing in the hospital and do not want an IV?
If you have thoroughly weighed and discussed the benefits and risks of having an IV in labor and ultimately decide you will decline an IV in labor, then that is your right and the hospital cannot decline care to a woman in active labor. If you're opting out of an IV, you should explain this to your provider before labor and when you arrive to the hospital. You may need to request an AMA (against medical advice) form, however, ultimately the decision is yours. If you're opting out of a saline lock, make sure your support team understands your wishes. They can help you advocate for yourself and help you stay strong if any providers are contrary when you exercise autonomy.
Why do I need an IV if I get an epidural?
If you are consenting to interventions such as inductions or epidurals, there are additional medical risks at play that require IV fluids to combat. An epidural can cause your blood pressure to drop dangerously low, therefore IV fluid is needed to help maintain a safe and healthy blood pressure.
As always, you have options with every intervention. Make sure you discuss your decisions with your support team (spouse, family, friends, doula, and midwife or OB) and include your decisions on your Birth Plan.
If you have any more questions about getting an IV during labor or you'd like to share your experience with other moms, please use the comments section below to connect with us!
If you're looking for help writing your birth plan, I'm happy to help you! Click here to book virtual prenatal support services. For more pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding tips, follow me on Instagram @littlebearbirthservices
Jaimie Zaki is an LPN, IBCLC, Doula, Motherhood Photographer, Air Force Wife, and homeschooling mother of four living in Wichita Falls, Texas. Jaimie is passionate about supporting mothers during pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding. Jaimie offers in person and virtual pregnancy support, labor support, breastfeeding support, and preparation classes.