Is it a problem to take paracetamol in labour?

Why should we think carefully before using or suggesting that women take paracetamol in labour?

Written by ‘the Undercover Midwife’*, this 2015 blog post on Paracetamol and Labour posited the theory that there is a correlation between the increase (as observed by the writer and other midwives) in women having long latent (or prodromal, if you’re in the US) phases of their labour and advice to take paracetamol, often repeatedly, during this time.

It’s a fascinating theory, and one I often discuss in my workshops. Especially when talking about what helps and what hinders the progress of labour.


“I just do not remember, either as an NHS or independent midwife in the 1980s and 1990s, women having such long exhausting and problematic latent phases as they do now. I also don’t remember anyone telling women to “take a couple of paracetamol”. Recently I informally supported someone at home who had had 4 or 5 days of latent labour. I asked her about her paracetamol intake and was shocked to find that she had consumed 25 to 30 grams of paracetamol over that period. The midwives she had been ringing on the local “triage unit”, each one different, had told her to take paracetamol regularly and this she had done. I asked if it was helping and she said it wasn’t, so I suggested she stop taking it which she did. Quite apart from the impact on the liver, could the ubiquitous advice to take paracetamol be impacting on labour and, more particularly be affecting, or even creating, the latent phase of labour as we have come to know it today?” The Undercover Midwife


Quite. This is a great blog post and a truly interesting theory.

If you haven’t yet read and pondered it, I urge you to head over to The Undercover Midwife and read the whole post so you can find out more about it for yourself  You might also be interested in this newer post about paracetamol and pregnancy as well 🙂


* P.S. No, it’s not me. A good number of people have asked me over the years if I am the Undercover Midwife. No, I am not. It takes me enough time to look after and write my own blog, let alone another one 😉 I think she’s rather fabulous though.)


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photo credit: Leach84 06_Augustr-2467 via photopin (license)

4 comments for “Is it a problem to take paracetamol in labour?

  1. V Whitlow
    August 14, 2017 at 5:11 pm

    I read that article by Undercover midwife too and it really resonated with me. I’ve been a midwife for 19 years and I also don’t remember all these long latent phases. Hoping someone will do some research into this soon. Obviously no benefit to the pharmaceutical industry if we stop using a drug (!) so not sure where the funding would come from?

    • Natalija Kolesnikova
      August 15, 2017 at 4:54 pm

      A question to that – how would they define and manage latent stage of labour 20 years ago? In many countries, especially a few years ago, a lady with strong contractions and 2-3 cm would have been admitted to labour ward despite small dilatation. Then if she did not progress, her labour would have been augumented? Now we assess them on the phone and advice staying home as long as possible, taking a bath and paracitamol (as general pain relief)? Can it be that a few years ago we wouldn’t have allowed women to have these prolonged latent stages by admitting and augumenting earlier?

  2. August 15, 2017 at 3:54 pm

    Just read the post – really informative! I’m gonna be commencing my midwifery studies here next month, do you think I ought to speak of this once I’m on placement?

  3. August 16, 2017 at 12:09 am

    I have heard many stories of women in early labour taking paracetamol. We know paracetamol dulls emotional pain as well as physical pain but we don’t know how. Would be fascinated if anyone can get funding for research on this

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