An induced labor is hardly in the checklist of an ideal childbirth. Practically no expecting mother wants it. However, the reality is that, in some cases, it’s necessary. In yet other cases, however, it’s done even if it’s not the best choice for that moment. It can be difficult to know whether to agree to one or not, or even what to expect when you really do need it.
We’ve compiled a list of all the basic things you need to know about induced labor to help you out.
15 Done Past the Due Date
When your doctor is calculating your due date, she’ll probably figure it’s around 40 weeks from the first day of your last period. If your pregnancy lasts for about 41 weeks, she won’t bat an eyelash. However, if it goes to about 42 weeks or beyond, she may get worried.
Late or post-term babies are risky. For one thing, if the pregnancy goes on, the baby may grow too big to fit through your pelvis or require a larger C-section cut, if needed. As the baby grows, the level of amniotic fluid cushioning him in your womb may also decrease. This can result in several problems such as a compressed umbilical cord.
These possible complications are the reason why your doctor may recommend induction if you’re overdue. If you’re unsure, get an ultrasound and a second opinion to check if these problems are present in your baby.
14 Done After PROM
Another reason your doctor may recommend induction is when your amniotic sac has broken early, also known as premature rupture of membranes or PROM, and labor doesn’t set in within the span of 24 hours. Because a broken amniotic sac significantly increases the risk of microorganisms entering your womb and infecting you and your baby, your doctor will have to weigh the risks. Fortunately, most women will go into labor within a day of breaking their water. Some, however, will require intervention.
If you’re 34 or more weeks pregnant, chances are that your doctor will induce labor. If you’re less than 34 weeks pregnant, you may need to stay in the hospital while your doctor gives you medication that can help your baby mature fast enough so he has a greater chance of survival in the outside world.
13 Done for Health Problems
If you or your baby have health problems that require him to be born earlier than expected, an induced labor may well be in the horizon. These health problems include preeclampsia or diabetes.
This is just another reason why it’s important to have regular prenatal checkups. They allow your doctor to monitor your health and attempt to normalize it well before your due date. She may also be able to determine your risk for induction. In some cases, especially when your doctor determines that attempting a vaginal delivery is risky for you and the baby, she may recommend a C-section instead.
12 Not Always Your Best Option
There are cases when you or your doctor may want your baby born on a specific date. But if you’re not overdue and there’s no medical reason to induce, it’s probably a better idea to wait until you’re truly ready to give birth.
If you’re not comfortable with your doctor’s recommendation of inducing labor, you may want to get a second opinion from another reliable and experienced doctor just so you can weigh out the risks.
In some cases, however, as with places where there is little access to medical care, childbirth may be scheduled and induced. This ensures that the mother has a full medical team and all emergency treatment options are available during childbirth.
11 Natural Induction
Not many women know that it’s completely possible to induce labor without medical intervention. Your doctor may even recommend trying it out before attempting medical induction. However, she’ll still want to have a medical team close by just in case. Make sure to consult your doctor to check if your induction method of choice is safe.
Natural induction methods include nipple stimulation, which triggers the release of oxytocin, the hormone which in turn triggers uterine contractions. Sex may also help, since orgasm does cause an oxytocin release. However, there is fewer evidence for this than with nipple stimulation as the amount of oxytocin released during orgasm may not be enough to start labor. In addition, it’s probably a bad idea to have sex if your water has broken. Other methods include spicy food and acupuncture.
Natural methods of induction aren’t 100% guaranteed to work but, if you’re lucky, they may be able to save you a bit of hassle.
10 You Can Refuse
If you’re not comfortable with it, remember that it is a procedure that requires your informed consent and you can therefore refuse induction. Make sure, however, that you’ve weighed the risks and the benefits of induction before you make that choice. In some cases, you may be able to have a vaginal delivery without any complications eventually.
Do note that if you decide not to induce and medical risks arise later on, you may need to get a C-section.
There are actually several ways by which you can get an induction. Some of these involve administering medication that will help trigger the labor.
One of the possible medications is a synthetic oxytocin, which is usually given through an intravenous line. This med works exactly like natural oxytocin, which triggers uterine contractions to give labor a jump start.
Another med that can be used to induce labor are prostaglandins, which come in the form of suppositories that are inserted into your vagina. Prostaglandins stimulate the ripening of your cervix, making it soft and slowly opening it up.
8 Mechanical Induction
Medications typically use chemicals that mimic the hormones in your body that trigger labor. Mechanical induction, on the other hand, physically creates the cues that tell your body to give birth already.
One method is to break the amniotic sac artificially. This is called the artificial rupture of membranes or AROM. It is exactly what it sounds like: artificially puncturing the amniotic sac to release amniotic fluid and, hopefully, triggering labor. This description may make you cringe but it’s relatively painless.
Yet another method is by inserting a foley catheter and inflating the balloon in the end with sterile water to dilate the cervix. This is usually done with an epidural or another painkiller.
7 Safety Versus Risk
Despite its disadvantages, labor induction is generally safe. It is not necessarily something you’d want to have, but the survival rates for both mother and baby are pretty comparable with non-induced vaginal deliveries.
This is not to say that it doesn’t come with its own risks. Potential complications do exist but medical teams are usually well-prepared for them. Talk to your doctor or a trusted medical professional if you want to assess your risks.
6 More Pain
Many mothers report that induction tends to be more painful than childbirth without induction. This is because the contractions are induced abruptly rather than in the gradual natural process your body goes through prior to childbirth. Because of this, you may want to discuss pain relief options with your doctor prior to induction.
5 C-Section Risk Inconclusive
Some references claim that labor induction increases the risk for getting C-sections. Other studies, however, suggest that induction does not increase the risk for C-sections, whether it is successful or not.
This is considering that, for instance, pregnant woman with diabetes has both an increased risk for needing induction and an increased risk for needing a C-section. The two risks are entirely different, but are both present in certain conditions such as diabetes or a large baby.
In addition, a successful induced labor does avert the need to have a C-section.
4 Longer Hospital Stays
Induced labor is associated with longer hospital stays. Again, this is because, among other things, the abrupt onset of labor means that your risk for vaginal tears or the need for an episiotomy increases. This will, of course, mean that you need to stay at the hospital longer so that you can recover.
3 Continuous Monitoring
If you’re getting an induced labor, expect that the medical team will put you and your baby under continuous monitoring during childbirth. This is one major reason why many medical teams are able to avert the risks of induced labor. You will probably be hooked to machines that monitor your blood pressure, pulse rate and oxygen saturation. These may look intimidating at first, but they’re pretty standard as far as medical equipment goes. They may also attach a machine that will help monitor your baby’s condition to your abdomen.
2 Assisted Delivery
Induction also increases your risk of getting an assisted delivery. An assisted delivery is one in which either forceps or a vacuum is used to ease your baby out of the birth canal. Assisted deliveries are generally safe for the baby, although you might expect some bruising afterwards. You, however, might be at increased risk for perineal tears.
1 Can Save Lives
In some cases, an induction may save the life of the mother, the baby or both. Again, it’s not exactly the best position to find yourself in. After all, there are several risks and disadvantages to consider. However, when the risk of the procedure itself far outweighs the risk of waiting your pregnancy out, it just may be the safest and the most responsible thing that you can do for you and your baby.