Being induced is a pretty frightening experience — at least it is for any woman who has real knowledge of the process and what it can lead to. Believe it or not, a lot of mothers opt for this procedure when they’re pregnant. Some love being able to schedule baby’s birth so their whole family can be in attendance; others just want pregnancy to be over already. The doctor says it’s okay, and all of their friends are doing it. So, why not?
Because induction carries serious risks that dramatically elevate the chances of needing other interventions during labor. That’s why not. As many as 40 percent of labors are induced in the United States. Among them, around one-quarter of them end up having a C-section. Many providers don’t check a woman’s Bishop’s score first, which is a big problem because the risk of a C-section is around 30 percent for women whose cervix is not favorable.
Once one know the risks, it’s impossible to un-know them. There’s no going back. Thus, when a medical condition presents that actually makes it necessary for an informed mommy to accept induction, it can bring on a state of panic and anxiety that she never saw coming. From Pitocin and AROM to Foley bulbs and Cervadil, these moms need to know they aren’t alone.
16The Pain Of Pitocin
Pitocin is a synthetic form of oxytocin. It works similarly to this natural hormone we produce, but not quite the same. It also disrupts the natural chemical process in our bodies during labor. Normally, a woman who avoids drugs during labor will be fueled with a surge of adrenaline that helps her cope with the pain and endure the length of labor. Pitocin doesn’t produce this surge, though.
In addition, it causes the uterus to contract more intensely and often causes contractions that are closer together. This provides less relief between contractions for women, and thus, less time for them to recover from each contraction before the next begins.
Evie was well aware when she consented to induction that it may make it more painful. She was not prepared for just how painful it would be, though. “The contractions seemed to come one on top of the other. I couldn’t catch my breath. My first epidural didn’t take, and the second slowed things down, which required more Pitocin. I’m planning a home birth next time and praying to escape any kind of event that would require my baby to be born before he chooses to be,” she shared.
15My Dreams Of A Natural Birth… Shattered
Isa was never expecting to have to be induced. She planned a birthing center birth with a midwife. A very crunchy one at that. Her midwife was totally on board with her plans to have a natural labor that was free of all interventions. She never pressured her to jump on the mainstream bus and do what the other moms were doing. She felt so blessed to have found such a supportive care provider in her tiny hometown.
Then reality struck. “At 37 weeks, I was diagnosed with cholestasis. I had to be induced because the risk of stillbirth went up dramatically the longer I stayed pregnant. I was prepared for the waves of contractions, the breathing, the breast crawl, and squatting to birth my baby. I was not prepared to do all of this in a hospital while hooked up to monitors and an IV. As soon as any suspicion of a problem came to light, I felt my natural birth dreams slipping away from me.”
Isa’s story isn’t an uncommon one. Complications do arise. Pregnancy and birth can both be very unpredictable. Women need to be prepared not only for the birth they want, but the one they hope they don’t have, too. Be prepared for that C-section — even if it’s a gentle one. Be prepared for a long labor. Be prepared for the unexpected with induction.
14What About Autism?
“I’d been induced with my first baby. So, when the doctor suggested it for my second, I wasn’t concerned about the pain or the risks. We made it through the first time, we would make it through the second. What gave me pause was the method of induction. He wanted to use Pitocin. It worked well last time, sure, but since then, I had read up on the drug extensively.”
“It wasn’t until my first child was diagnosed with autism that I began to question where this mystery diagnosis comes from. It just so happens that some research has linked Pitocin-induced labors to autism in the child born in those deliveries.”
“The science isn’t concrete, but it was enough to give me pause. Instead of Pitocin, I opted to have my bag of waters broken after the doctor inserted a Foley bulb for my second delivery. For us, it was the right choice. Baby was in my arms about seven hours later,” Donica shared.
13The Cascade Of Interventions
Sometimes, the scariest part of induction is the likelihood of other interventions being stacked against you. When a woman undergoes induction, she will have to accept the reality that the statistics are no longer in her favor. It’s downright terrifying for the mother who is trying to avoid these advancements from western medicine and birth her baby in the most natural way she can.
When Dana agreed to induction, her biggest fear was a C-section. She knew the risk of it happening would increase. She knew that doctors in her town had a reputation for being gung-ho about surgery. She also knew she was adamant about saying no, but there would be limitations to just how far she could take that.
She shared, “I was pushing for almost two hours before the doctor recommended we do a C-section. I was crushed. I felt defeated. I had labored all that time, even with Pitocin. I made it that far, and now he wanted to take the prize of pushing my baby out away from me. After another half hour of pushing, I agreed to surgery, and I regret it to this day and wonder how much longer it would’ve taken to deliver my baby naturally.”
12Delivering A Baby I Wouldn’t Get To Keep
Trigger warning. When Jessica was 22 weeks pregnant with her son, she was concerned that she hadn’t felt any movement from him. Her friends and family told her not to worry, that it was early in her pregnancy still, and it was normal for movement to come and go. They weren’t wrong, but Jessica regrets not listening to her mother’s intuition sooner.
After two days of no movement, she contacted her doctor and they set her up with an ultrasound. She’d just seen her son a few weeks before on an anatomy scan and he was fine. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case this time. For Jessica, induction would end with the birth of a sleeping baby.
She shared, “There will likely never be a more painful experience in my life. I know this already. I still long for him. I want him here with me. While it was obvious that I couldn’t go on pregnant with him that way, I was devastated to have to be induced to birth him. I wanted that experience, but at the same time I wished I could be put to sleep and wake up and it all be over. I will never forget it, and that’s both a blessing and a curse.”
11I’ll Never Experience True Labor
When Sheena was pregnant with her third baby, all she wanted was to go into labor on her own. She was induced with both of her other children because her doctor wouldn’t let her go over 41 weeks. Going into the end zone with her third, she’d educated herself better and knew that she was allowed to refuse induction, and that’s just what she did — until a complication arose that she never saw coming.
“I was diagnosed with preeclampsia. I had to be induced. It wasn’t safe for me to stay pregnant. I knew all of this and yet I still felt so heartbroken. I would never know what spontaneous labor felt like. This was my last baby, and all of my birth stories for the rest of time would include induction.”
“I’m sure I had fears before my other inductions, but I always had it in the back of my mind that I would get some sort of redo to do things the way I wanted, on my terms. I guess that just wasn’t in the cards for me. To me, that’s the scariest part of induction — the fact that you never know if you’ll need it.”
10AROM: Tick Tock
Often, doctors are keen on rupturing a mother’s membranes artificially. They want to speed things up. They aren’t looking to stick around at the hospital all night waiting on a mother to progress on her own — not when they can rush things along with a reputably safe drug.
The problem with allowing a doctor to rupture one’s membranes is that it puts them on the clock. Hospitals love this intervention. Not only does it increase the speed of labor because that cushion is gone, it makes contractions far more painful. Why is this a perk? Because Mom will be more likely to ask for pain meds. This is a benefit because they profit from it, and the mother is then more likely to need Pitocin.
That’s what happened to Crystal. She didn’t want Pitocin; so, the doctor broke her water. She shared, “I don’t think anyone ever thinks the awful birth stories will happen to them. I never thought that would be me… the woman who couldn’t hack the pain and asked for the epidural at 4 cm, the woman who then failed to progress and needed Pitocin to keep labor going. After four more hours with no change, I was sent to have a C-section. I can’t say I regret it because I have my daughter, but I won’t be having an induction ever again if I can help it.”
9They Won’t Let Me Stay Pregnant
“I wasn’t from the US. I was used to a calmer birth climate in the UK. I always expected to have a midwife. You only see a doctor in the UK if you have complications. It was hard for me to even find a midwife here. I chose a birth center, but risked out when I developed severe anemia.”
“I still wanted to have a calm birth, even if it had to be in a hospital. I hadn’t heard the best things about American hospitals and obstetricians, but I felt pretty well informed. Then, at my first appointment with the doctor, he told me I needed to be induced if I hadn’t gone into labor by my next appointment when I would be 41 weeks. I was shocked by this. I had a lot of questions and it seemed like he didn’t have time for any of them. Everything went so fast. I had just switched to this doctor. I didn’t have time to find another. I didn’t know I was allowed to say no. I just did what they said.”
“My friends and family back home couldn’t believe the pressure I was put under here. They all asked what happened and why I had to be induced, and when I told them it was because I was a week past my due date, they were so confused. It still makes me feel ashamed and embarrassed that I didn’t stand up for myself better,” Carmen shared.
8When Induction Doesn’t Take
Corina wasn’t too worried about induction at the start of it. She felt that her doctor had informed her of all of her options, and she chose to go with the one that would let her meet her baby soonest and stop worrying about the outcomes of her pregnancy.
She shared, “When I was hooked up to the Pitocin, I thought labor would start anytime. After a few hours and several increases in the dose, I had barely any contractions. I was so worried that they would want to do a C-section, so I think I felt relieved when the doctor told me to go home and we would try again the next day.”
“The next day rolled around and I was nervous that induction wouldn’t work again. I wasn’t sure how many times they would let me attempt it before pushing me to go under the knife. It did end up working for me that day, but the time leading up to it was full of anxiety for me.”
7I Hope I Made The Right Choice
“The way I saw it, I had two choices to pick from. Either I had to stay pregnant and live with the potential consequences of that should something go wrong, or I had to be induced and lived with the potential consequences of that should something go wrong. Sounds great, huh? I was so paranoid about making the wrong choice that I felt like I couldn’t think straight.”
“I didn’t know how to weigh the pros and cons, because I valued certain pros above others and felt certain cons were more or less serious than one another. In the end, I trusted my doctor’s judgement, and I still think about that now and wonder whether or not I made the right choice. I don’t feel like I was pressured to induce, but I do feel like I was pressured to make a choice that I never thought I’d have to make. My advice to other women would be to prepare for the worst when pregnant. You just never know how it’s going to go,” Stephanie shared.
6My Baby Is In Distress
A lot of women aren’t all that educated on induction. Most don’t look into it ever unless it becomes an option for them or something they’re up against and trying to avoid. This is the first mistake and why so many end up feeling so very unprepared.
Rayna shared, “I wasn’t against induction. I know a lot of women are, but I felt pretty excited that I was going to meet my little man. I wasn’t worried at all. Looking back now, I kind of feel foolish. I see that what I was opting for was a medical procedure, and no matter how many women are doing it all the time, we still shouldn’t consider it to be normal or without risk.”
“Induction went fairly smoothly for me for a while, but as labor went on, the doctor started seeing some decelerations in my son’s heart rate that he didn’t like. This is what ultimately led to a C-section for me. I didn’t learn until after the fact that Pitocin is what often causes those decelerations. I feel that if I had been prepared ahead of time and said no to inducing just because that maybe I wouldn’t have this scar across my abdomen today and this sad feeling I live with of having missed out on a real birth.”
5My Nemesis: Postpartum Depression
Not everyone is worried about the pain that Pitocin brings with it or the risk of other interventions. In fact, some moms are worried about what happens next. What comes after birth and after the Pitocin is gone? This synthetic drug has been linked to both postpartum depression and anxiety, and the droves of women that continue to suffer with these mental health consequences of birth are alarming enough to investigate Pitocin’s role in the equation.
Studies show that Pitocin increases the risk of depression and anxiety in the postpartum period by 36 percent for women who have a history of either of these mood issues. While it’s anecdotal, Carly believes that Pitocin contributed to her developing PPD after the birth of her third baby. She shared, “I had beautiful births with all [four] of my babies, but only had to be induced with baby number three. Coincidentally, that’s the only pregnancy that I developed any kind of depression afterward.”
4They Were Just Looking For Reasons To Get Me In That ER
If you’ve watched The Business of Being Born lately or scoped out any remotely natural-minded website when it comes to birth, you likely already know that hospitals are profitable industries that will often stop at nothing to make a buck. You are a number, not a patient. You are not just there to be cared for out of the kindness of their hearts. That care comes at a very large price.
“My biggest concern with induction was the huge risk of C-section that comes with it. I was warned about it from several friends during my pregnancy. I saw my sister go through a C-section and it was the last thing I wanted for myself. I wanted that birth story that you see on TV, but I was scared that the more of my birth I let the doctor control, the more control he would try to take.”
“From the start of my induction, the nurses were pretty adamant about knowing how induction goes. They had the whole birth mapped out before it happened, making comments like it takes about eight hours. How do they know? How can it take the same length of time for every woman? Because they’re in control of the Pitocin and the strength and frequency of your contractions. That’s how!”
“When I was getting into active labor and the contractions were so intense I couldn’t talk well through them anymore, I wanted to get into the shower, but they told me no because it could slow my labor. I knew better, but I also felt I wasn’t allowed to break the rules. I was hungry, but I couldn’t eat because the nurses kept saying no in case I needed surgery.”
“All day long I felt like all anyone was doing was preparing me to be on an operating table. I still struggle with unhappiness from my birth experience now and keep hoping that my next birth will somehow help heal the negative feelings I carry from that experience,” Amber shared.
3I Wanted To Be In Control
Sharing on Amber’s train of thought, Jeni felt that her birth was only going to go the way she wanted if she stayed on top of every aspect of it. To her, this meant going into labor on her own. That was the starting point. That had to happen before anything else could, and that is the first thing they were trying to take away from her.
She shared, “When my doctor told me I would be induced, I asked her to repeat herself. It was crazy to me that this woman I’d trust for months and developed a solid relationship with was suddenly turning into one of those doctors that wants to induce you because you’re overdue. I refused. She complained. I refused. I was only 39 weeks and she was talking induction in a week.”
“Imagine how helpless I felt by the next week when I was in the labor and delivery ward because of sudden swelling in my legs and feet and a steadily increasing blood pressure. When my doctor walked in telling me I had preeclampsia and needed to be induced, I couldn’t help but feel like she had won and I had lost. She didn’t have to say anything. Her face said it all.”
“My relationship with my doctor had been compromised. I no longer trusted her, but I also didn’t know any other doctor well enough to switch at that point. I felt lost and alone. I am so thankful for my husband and my doula during that experience, but the induction was my worst nightmare. It was painful, and sad. It ended with a healthy baby, but I’m still having to remind myself that that’s what matters.”
Maria shared, “I’m one of those not-so-common women whose water broke before her contractions started. I was waiting around my house scrubbing the kitchen floor and hoping to kickstart things, but nothing came of it.”
“We headed to the hospital and they confirmed that my water had broken. I was hooked up to the monitors and on my way to having a baby with Pitocin augmentation. Then, I was completely blindsided hours into labor when the nurse went to change the pad underneath of me and noticed meconium staining.”
“My daughter was born a few hours later and had aspirated the meconium. I know babies can have a bowel movement in the womb in late pregnancy, but my waters were clear before I had gotten the Pitocin. I just can’t help but blame that drug for the time my sweet girl had to spend in the NICU without her mommy.”
1Due Dates Are Just Guesses
Some mothers are simply concerned about the validity of inducing. They want a solid reason - one that can’t be challenged. Mothers who are pushed to induce because of due dates bear the brunt of this burden of proof. They feel ill-equipped to tell their providers no, but they don’t want to be induced just because they are 40 weeks along. So what? Why not wait longer?
While there are statistics that show the risk of stillbirth and other complications stemming from placental failure increase as a woman goes past 42 weeks of pregnancy, the increase is so minimal that it isn’t really evidence-based care to claim a woman needs to be induced before then.
Likewise, we need to remember that due dates are estimates. They can be as much as two weeks off. A woman who is full term at 39 weeks may really only be at 37 weeks. That was Andi’s concern. She shared, “My doctor was very adamant that my baby be born at 39 weeks because I had gestational diabetes. Everything I read confirmed that there was no reason to induce if my numbers were under control, and they always had been. Still, my doctor persisted.”
“My biggest concern was not having a big baby. I knew that ultrasounds were terrible with estimating infant size. I was worried about fetal development. What if I wasn’t really 39 weeks? What if I was only 36 or 37 weeks along and this doctor was wanting to hurry my baby out of the womb before fetal development was complete? Would he raise my child if they suffered issues because of this? Nope! And that’s why I said hell no.”
“I ended up consenting to induction at 41 weeks when I was more confident that I was at least term. I gave birth to a healthy baby girl who wasn’t the slightest bit big. I know I did the right thing.”
Sources: Fit Pregnancy, Mayo Clinic, Fox News, Mother Rising Birth
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