According to surveys from 1988, 1992 and 1996, Norwegian obstetric departments are still to a large extent using pethidine as birth analgesia. In this article we report recent knowledge of various pharmacological effects of pethidine in mothers and newborns. Pethidine has mainly a sedative effect, but very little analgesic effect in parturients. Pethidine has relatively long-acting behavioural and neurological effects in the newborn due to slow elimination. As a result, breastfeeding is delayed and the mother-infant interaction is disturbed according to recent studies. There is concern about the more or less routine administration of pethidine in many hospitals. We conclude that obstetric departments should reconsider their use of pethidine.