Much like c-sections, the amount of medically induced labors has nearly doubled in the past ten years in the US. A big reason for this is women really like the convenience factor of being able to choose when their baby is born. There are a few different ways to induce labor, with the most popular method being the use of Pitocin or Syntocinon.
These are artificial versions of oxytocin, the chemical the body produces that causes contractions, as well as aids in many other aspects of delivery. A doctor can also artificially rupture the membrane just inside of the cervix, which encourages the baby to come out. There are also natural methods, but many people don’t believe in their efficacy.
Like c-sections, medically inducing labor should be something that is decided only after careful consideration, and should probably be used only as a last resort. It’s not as simple as “oh, I want Johnny to be born on Friday, pump me with chemicals.” There should be some sort of medical reason, either for the mother’s health or the baby’s as there is a fair amount of risk that comes along with the artificial induction of labor.
The baby is staying in there for a reason, if it is forced to come out earlier than ready, then it is possible that there will be a certain number of things wrong with the baby. If it was ready to come out on its own, it would have done so. Here we will discuss some of the risks involved with the medical induction of labor.
14 Mom Might Have To Go Under The Knife
One issue with medically inducing labor is that chances of a c-section needing to be done goes up. The reason for this is the cervix thins out and softens as the baby becomes more ready to enter the world. If for whatever reason a medical induction seems to be the answer, then it’s highly possible the cervix didn’t receive the message. Therefore, it’s more likely the baby will need to circumvent the cervix to be born.
It’s important to note that, along with c-sections, the number of medical inductions has nearly doubled in the US in the past ten years. It’s also important to note that inducing for a baby that is suspected to be pretty large increases the need for c-section. This is due to the fact that the cervix may not have been able to handle an average sized baby; add a few pounds to the baby and now we are really in trouble.
13 Baby Might Not Be Ready
Another issue with the induction of labor is the increased risk of a premature birth, which comes with a plethora of its own risks. One suspected reason for this is the fact that due dates are often pretty inaccurate. If a woman is due April 5th, and April 6th rolls around, she is often uncomfortable. No pregnancy is super comfortable all of the time. Now she is beginning to get anxious and perhaps elects to induce. The problem is, even though the baby was predicted to come on the 5th, it’s quiet possible it is still developing in the womb, and therefore will be underdeveloped at the time of delivery.
It is important if a woman is considering medical induction that she is sure it is a medical reason, and not simply because she is uncomfortable. In a healthy pregnancy, labor will happen when it happens, and it is important not to rush it. It is a life being created, not cookies baking. If the cookies come out too soon, they can go back in the oven. If a baby comes out too soon, that oven is exit only, and there is no way to put it back in.
12 Baby's Heart Rate Can Be Affected
Another issue with medically induced labor is the fact that it is done chemically. The medications used to induce labor also cause increased contractions, both in intensity and frequency. This can diminish the oxygen supply for the baby, which can lead to a reduced heart rate. This is unsafe for the baby for obvious reasons. The heart rate is one of the most important things to monitor during a delivery.
If a baby’s heart rate is too low, its body may try to overcompensate for the lack of oxygen being supplied to the body. It may favor the blood flow to vital organs, therefore decreasing oxygen in the less vital organs. While the vitals will remain healthy because of this, the other organs might not be so lucky. It is also not good for the brain to have limited oxygen, as cells could die, and they will not regenerate.
11 Mom Can Get An Infection
While the medical induction of labor itself may not typically cause infection, it does still pose a threat. One method of medical induction is an artificial rupture of the membranes in the cervix. Some people don’t like the idea of taking medication to induce labor, so they opt for the rupture of membranes. It’s done by brushing a thin metal hook against the membranes inside the cervix, which encourages the baby’s head to push down, which should cause contractions to increase.
However, if the time between the rupture and the actual delivery is too long, it greatly increases the risk of infection in both the baby and the mother. While there are other methods of induction which don’t require the artificial rupturing of membranes, they do require either medication, or a more natural approach, which can be done either by hand or with an electronic breast pump. The risk of infection does decrease with either of these methods.
10 Baby's Umbilical Cord Might Steal The Show
Another issue with the induction of labor is that it can cause problems with the umbilical cord. One of the biggest concerns is that it will slip into the vaginal canal before delivery, which can reduce the baby’s oxygen supply. This is a condition known as umbilical cord prolapse.
While this is a risk associated with the induction of labor, it can happen during a regular labor as well, but those instances are less cause for concern. Umbilical cord prolapse happens in about 1 in every 10 pregnancies. If the baby’s heart rate changes due to a cord compression, it can lead to some serious complications, such as variable deceleration. It can also cause a drop in blood pressure due to the decreased oxygen, or an increased amount of carbon dioxide, resulting in respiratory acidosis. As of now, there are no visible signs of a prolapsed cord, and can only be seen on an ultrasound.
9 When The Scar Is In The Way
Although not the most common risk, uterine rupture is one of the most serious risks of the induction of labor. This one is especially common when a planned VBAC (vaginal birth after c-section) is medically induced. It happens when the uterine scar from the previous c-section ruptures, and it is a great cause for concern. The risks often vary, such as the actual method of your previous surgery, and has a good deal to do with it, as well as the method of induction that was used.
Although not super worrisome for the mother, a uterine rupture could mean some seriously bad news for the baby. It can affect the baby’s oxygen levels, and therefore could put his vital organs at risk, and it can be as severe as causing fetal death. It’s possible to check the strength of your scar before you decide to induce, which can be done by ultrasound. If the doctor isn’t sure your scar could handle it, he may opt against doing a medical induction.
8 Heavy Bleeding After Delivery
A medical induction could increase the risk that the uterine muscles won’t properly contract, which can lead to some heavy blood flow after delivery. One cause of this is the prolonged exposure to the synthetic oxytocin chemical that a woman receives when inducing labor. Natural oxytocin actually decreases the risk of hemorrhage after birth, but if too much of the synthetic stuff is in the system, the body won’t produce very much of it. This is one cause of the extra blood after the induction of labor.
Another reason for the extra blood is the fact that the mother has limited mobility, mostly due to the fetal monitoring equipment that is set up with any induction. The decreased movement could cause her more pain, which could make her choose to receive an epidural. This drug often suppresses the production of oxytocin, which again, limits her blood flow.
7 Can Increase Risk To Baby's Life
When medically inducing a mother, while there are natural ways of doing it, chances are good that it is being done with a synthesized version of oxytocin, most commonly Pitocin/Syntocinon. While a great deal of research has gone into the safety of these chemicals, it is still not entirely clear how detrimental these can be on the health of the mother and of the baby. We already discussed how the introduction of the synthetic material would reduce the production of the natural hormone, and therefore could increase a mother’s chance of hemorrhage. Therefore, it is not unreasonable to think that there may be other side effects.
One of those side effects, unfortunately, seems to be stillbirth. While inductions are sometimes done to try and avoid a stillbirth, when done chemically, unfortunately, it can sometimes cause the very thing it is trying to prevent. There are many circumstances which could cause decreased blood flow to the baby during induction, and those things can, unfortunately, lead to stillbirth, some of which we have already discussed.
6 Mom's Blood Pressure Can Destabilize
Another risk of the chemicals used to induce labor is the chance of hypotension or low blood pressure. Low blood pressure in an infant means bad news, as it means not enough oxygen is being delivered throughout their body. This can cause organ failure, poor brain development, and possibly death. Again, this is often caused by the chemicals used to induce labor.
Hypotension can be difficult to treat in infants, as one thing that may help hypotension may cause another problem. For instance, if the infant is put on medications to raise his blood pressure, it can go too high and cause hypertension, which is high blood pressure. It can also be treated by being put on a ventilator, which helps the baby breathe properly. Unfortunately, a ventilator can actually cause hypotension by encouraging pressure to build up in the chest. If the infant is breathing faster than normal, has cold limbs, or is hardly urinating, there is a good chance it has hypotension and should be checked out.
5 The Uterus Can Backflip
Yet another side effect of Pitocin/Syntocinon is the possibility of uterine inversion. A uterine inversion is when the uterus literally turns inside out after delivery. It often happens when the placenta doesn’t naturally separate from the uterine wall and occurs during the “delivery” of the placenta. Oftentimes a doctor or midwife will actually reach up to the vaginal canal and gently peels the placenta from the uterine wall. Occasionally the uterus can flip inside out during this procedure. However, it can happen on its own as well.
If uterine inversion does occur, it is a serious medical emergency. The woman will immediately be put on an IV, with drugs to manage pain and to help relax the uterus. Sometimes surgery on the abdominal area is required to reposition the uterus, but not always. After the uterus is back to where it should be, the woman will be closely monitored for any additional issues, and it will be a little bit before the woman should try and stand up on her own.
4 Increases The Risk Of Intervention
One issue with induction is that it doesn’t always go smoothly. If the woman has been induced, but the baby doesn’t necessarily want to come out, oftentimes the doctor will opt for a c-section. However, that is not always an option; sometimes it has gone too far past a c-section, but the baby still doesn’t want to come out. In these cases, oftentimes the doctor will need to go in after the baby with the use of forceps or a vacuum.
While it’s not uncommon to use these instruments to help deliver the baby, they come with their own risks. It’s possible for the forceps to cause severe cranial damage, as they are literally pinching onto the baby’s head. Shoulder issues often occur as well, as the arm is often in the wrong spot during the extraction. The vacuum carries its own risks, such as retinal hemorrhage in the baby. The use of the vacuum is also more often unsuccessful than the use of forceps.
3 Baby Could End Up In NICU
While neonatal care in itself isn’t necessarily risky, if it needs to happen it’s because there are other issues going on with the baby. And to any mother, that in itself is very scary. There are many factors that increase the need for neonatal intensive care, and medical labor induction is one of them, especially if the membranes have been broken artificially.
A lot of times a medical induction causes a premature birth, as there is generally a medical reason for the induction. Therefore, oftentimes the baby isn’t fully developed. Their lungs, which are one of the last things to develop, may not be fully there, and the brain may not have gotten all the time it wanted as well. These are all reasons why neonatal intensive care may be a good idea after induction. It’s also common for the heart rate to be sporadic, which is a good indication extra care is needed as well.
2 Mom Can Be At Risk For Water Intoxication
Another side effect of Pitocin is water intoxication. Water intoxication, normally induced from drinking too much water, occurs when the normal balance of electrolytes gets out of whack. It’s very easy for an infant to suffer from water intoxication (and it’s actually recommended that an infant doesn’t even drink water until they are about six months old) due to their low body mass. Pitocin, however, can cause water intoxication in the mother as well, and has, in the past, resulted in death.
The brain being the organ most affected by water intoxication , it was thought in the past that someone who suffers from the intoxication is essentially drowning their brain. However, that has been proven to not be the case and is in fact due to electrolytes being out of balance. Symptoms in the mother could be muscle cramps, swelling in the hand or feet, confusion, and possibly seizures. The infant’s blood levels need to be monitored to catch any signs of water intoxication.
1 Can Make Contractions More Painful
Since Pitocin artificially induces contractions, they often peak harder, and can come in quicker intervals. The reason for this is because it comes intravenously; often times it comes in a higher dose than what your body is expecting. While this does speed up labor, which is why Pitocin is used, it makes the contractions much more painful. Another reason they are more painful is that the woman doesn’t get the breaks in between natural contractions, which can give her a chance to prepare herself for the next round.
Because of the intense pain, many women who would have opted for a natural birth will now request an epidural, which has its own level of controversy attached to it. There is also some belief that since the hormone is artificial, that causes the contractions to be much stronger, as the actual potency of the stuff is higher. So if a woman is opting to shorten her labor out of discomfort, she should keep in mind that while Pitocin will shorten the labor time, it will be much more painful than a naturally induced labor.
Sources: MayoClinic.org, FitPregnancy.com, MarchOfDimes.org, HealthLine.com, Community.BabyCenter.com