Wednesday, September 9, 2009

High on Childbirth

“Heroin. The sedative for coughs” Bayer advertisement from the late 1800s


When I was pregnant with my first child I spent a lot of time considering the pain I was about to experience during childbirth.  I was determined to have a plan - just like the childbirth books told me I must have.  I was quite sure that with determination I would need no more than a TENS machine and positive thinking. Ha. Totally didn't work.

During one visit to my Obstetrician I explained that I had this well thought out plan.  He looked at me, raised an eyebrow, and said you know the best possible treatment for pain in childbirth is a dose of Heroin.

Excuse me?

Oh yes, he continued, after it was made illegal to produce Heroin for medicinal purposes in Australia we stockpiled it [at this hospital] and only ran out in the late 1980s. 

Apparently doctors in Britain can still prescribe Heroin (as the drug Diamorphine) in cases of extreme pain – usually patients experiencing trauma, cancer ... or childbirth.

Heroin, along with other drugs now classed as illegal narcotics such as cocoa leaf and marijuana, were common ingredients in many medicines  and ‘tonics’ at the turn of the 20th century, even those targeted at babies and toddlers.

We are a drug-taking society – be it coffee, nicotine, alcohol, prescribed drugs, illicit drugs or chocolate.  The artificial stimulation of the senses occupies a part of many of our days. Now I’m not about to call for the legalisation of cocaine-based teething solutions for babies or heroin-based cough mixture but it did make me wonder what drugs we freely take today that in fifty years time will be deemed illegal or, at least, shocking?


kurrabikid said...

Just last week I had morphine during my labour (while simultaneously sucking in the gas!)... so perhaps we've not moved too far on (by the way, it helped).

peppermintpatcher said...

I laugh sacastically to myself every time I see an ad for a "plant-based alternative" natural product. After all - don't opium and heroin match that description? Who knows what will be the next evil.

Brenda said...

I remember hearing stories about childbirth in my Mother's generation from her and my Aunts. They told about hallucinations and week long stays in the hospital. So drugged up for childbirth that forceps were used to get the child out. What were they thinking???? I have always wanted to do some more research on this. I have had 5 stomach surgeries, one exploratory for appendix, three c-sections for childbirth, and one hysterectomy...oh yes, and 4 wisdom teeth extractions all at once. For every one of these procedures, I was given very little in the way of drugs for the pain. Also, I left the hospital after the third day of each of them. The wisdom teeth extractions were the worse! I got nothing for the pain after I went home. It was awful! I guess I went to the wrong doctors. Mine did not give me any of the good stuff....ha.

Boy on a bike said...


Gramma Ann said...

I had really easy child births (5) and didn't need much of any thing. That was in the 1958-1968 period. I stayed in the hospital 3 days and then home to care for family and baby. I have no idea how things are done today. I'm to busy doing other more fun things now. ; )

weenie_elise said...

all the old stories of the 'dope fiend' housewife who got addicted during childbirth (and it's aftermath) and never stopped taking it...

you could buy marijuana cigarettes at the drugstore in the 20's.

And now you hear lots of stories of people abusing prescription drugs