Birth Items

Intravenous Catheter Definition


An intravenous catheter is a thin tube that is inserted into a vein in the arm for the purpose of administering fluids, medications, or blood products. It is also used for taking blood samples. The most common type of IV catheter is the butterfly needle, which has two small wings that help to stabilize the needle once it has been inserted into the vein.

The use of intravenous catheters is common in both hospital and outpatient settings and has become a vital part of the pregnancy and birthing process. It helps to keep the mother and fetus hydrated and provides a way to give medications or transfusions if needed. The IV catheter also allows for monitoring of the mother and fetus during labor and delivery and can also be used to take blood samples from the mother or fetus. 

There are some risks associated with using an IV catheter. These include infection, bleeding, bruising, or pain at the site where the IV catheter was inserted, phlebitis (inflammation of the vein), and thrombosis (formation of a blood clot). There is also a risk of damaging the vein if the IV catheter is not inserted correctly.


The term “intravenous catheter” can be confusing because it has multiple meanings. In general, an “IV” refers to any type of medical device that is inserted into a vein. This includes everything from simple needle sticks for taking blood samples to more complex devices like central venous lines and ports. An “IV catheter” specifically refers to a thin, flexible tube that is inserted into a vein for giving fluids or taking blood samples. It should not be confused with “intravascular catheter,” which refers to a type of catheter that is inserted into an artery instead of a vein.

Some terms that are closely associated with “intravenous catheter” include: butterfly needle, central venous catheter (CVC), peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC), port-a-cath, and Power Port.

This image shows how often the term ‘Intravenous Catheter’ is used in relation to other, similar birth terms:

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