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Knowing The Benefits And Risks Of Labour Induction

When you become pregnant, the first thing people ask you is, "when is your baby due?"  You are given a due date, sometimes more than one and you anxiously wait for that day to arrive.  However, due dates are more correctly labeled 'Estimated Due Dates'.  This means your baby won't come on that date, but around that date.  In fact, the World Health Organization does not consider you post-term until or 'overdue' until you are past 42 weeks.  And only about 5% of babies are born spontaneously on their due date.

As your due date approaches you may get anxious that you'll be pregnant forever, or your body is broken because nothing is happening.  You won't, and it's not.  Your care provider may even start to suggest that your labor be induced.  But before you jump into an induction or any other medical procedure, look at the benefits and risks of medical induction.

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Benefits:

Timing - While this isn't the best reason for inducing your baby, knowing when the baby will be born can make planning your maternity leave and your partner's leave a little easier.  Choosing your birthing time, however, has to include the baby's health and not inducing before 39 - 40 weeks gestation.

Reduction In Cesarean Birth Risk - For many years, it has been stated that having an induction without a medical reason increases your risk of a cesarean birth by as much as 50%.  Late in 2018, The Arrive Study indicated that inducing low-risk pregnant people without a medical reason could reduce the risk of having a cesarean birth versus waiting to induce after 40 weeks.  While this study is well done and quite large, it doesn't compare induction vs. no induction or labor starting on its own, therefore, having a cesarean birth after an induction could still be a risk.

Risks:

More Difficult Labour - When labour is induced, the contractions that are being created are artificial to start and can be more difficult to manage versus naturally-occurring contractions.  People often describe contractions that are started or boosted by the synthetic hormone Pitocin as harder or sharper than when the uterus contracts on its own without help.

Longer Labour - You may think that being induced will speed up the process.  That isn't always the case.  When labor is being artificially started before the body is ready, it can actually take longer for the cervix to thin and dilate.  I would even suggest that if the body isn't ready to give birth, it can be resistant to the artificial ways that are used to encourage the cervix to open.  When starting with a thick, fully closed cervix, the induction process could potentially take several days.

Fetal Distress - Inducing labor includes a series of steps, including the insertion of a medication called Cervadil close to or into the cervix.   Cervadil is a synthetic version of a hormone called prostaglandin.  Cervadil, however, can cause 'hyper-contracting,' which means the uterus is contracting faster and stronger than your body or baby can tolerate.  This can lead to fetal distress and a possible cesarean birth if the contractions can't be slowed down.

Another step that can occur in the induction process is having your water break, which the baby may also not tolerate well, or lead to an infection if the labor ends up being long,  thus leading to a possible cesarean birth.

And the final step is often the use of Pitocin.  Those stronger contractions you feel can be masked by having an epidural, which isn't an option for the baby and can again lead to fetal distress.  On a positive note, however, Pitocin can be shut off and it leaves your body fairly quickly, which can usually settle down baby's negative reaction to it.  If it doesn't however, a cesarean birth can occur.

RELATED: Gyno's POV: 20 Unexpected Ways A Woman Can Actually Induce Labor

Having an induction can be the safest way to deliver a baby when medical issues come up in your pregnancy.  However, if you are having a very boring pregnancy and you and baby are healthy, waiting for the baby to decide when to be born is often the safest course of action.  If your care provider is opening discussions on an induction make sure you asking about the Benefits, Risks and Alternative options before agreeing to one.

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