Viewer Question:I am trying to find out the real name for twilight sleep; they used it in 1970 when women were delivering their babies.
Doctor's Response:The term "twilight sleep" applied to the combination of analgesia (pain relief) and amnesia (loss of memory) that was produced by a mixture of morphine and scopolamine ("scope") given by a hypodermic injection (an injection under the skin). The mixture of the two drugs created a state in which the woman, while responding somewhat to pain, did not remember it after delivering her baby. Twilight sleep was once in vogue in obstetrics.
Morphine and scopolamine are both venerable drugs that have been around a long time. Both are also naturally occurring members of the very large chemical class of compounds called alkaloids:
Combined with morphine, scopolamine provided childbirth without pain (or without the memory of pain), once a much sought-after objective. However, there were serious problems with twilight sleep. It completely removed the mother from the birth experience and it gravely depressed the baby's central nervous system. This sometimes made for a drowsy depressed baby who was difficult to resusitate, to get breathing normally.
Twilight sleep has, therefore, fallen entirely out of favor and is now merely a chapter in the past history of obstetrics.
Last Editorial Review: 1/9/2003