The Risks Of Inducing Labor

Most pregnant women tend to reach a certain point during pregnancy where they just can’t stand being pregnant anymore. They’ve had enough of being pregnant, sore, uncomfortable and tired – enough of having to wait and wait and wait for the tiny person growing inside them for the past several months.

Although they may not like the idea of being ‘induced’, getting over the ‘heavily pregnant’ part is something that may tempt them into it.

On the other hand, there are women who genuinely need to be induced for certain situations. These include health issues like pre-eclampsia in which both the mother and baby will remain at risk if the pregnancy is continued. So if there’s a genuine medical reason why your baby should be born as soon as possible, this article is not for you.

However, the fact of the matter is that these days, labor inductions happen more commonly for convenience rather than for medical reasons. Sometimes it’s simply because a date has passed or a woman’s preferred doctor isn’t available around the due date. If truth be told, having an induction isn’t a simple procedure because it is full of risks. A few of these are:

7 It increases your chances of having a C-section

Labor induction is known to increase a woman’s likelihood of having a C-section. This particularly holds true for women who have never given birth before and whose cervix hasn’t started thinning, softening and dilating (women who have an ‘unfavorable cervix’).

At times, there is also the possibility that your labor may not get induced. However, it might already be too late for you to be sent home with it being necessary for your baby to be delivered. This may be because your water has been broken, either naturally or by means of an amniotomy.

In such a case, there is an increased risk of infection which deems it necessary for the baby to be delivered via C-section. Along with fetal distress, a C-section in an induced labor may also be required due to malpresentation (posterior, etc.) of the baby.

 What does research say?

Research studies have presented information that will most probably make antsy moms think a million times before scheduling an induced labor for non-medical reasons.

The report, which was compiled by Australian researchers and tracked the labors and deliveries of 28,000 women—some of whom went into spontaneous labor, while others were induced for either medical or non-medical reasons.

The study documents a significant percentage increase in both C-section deliveries (67% increased risk—that’s big), and NICU care (64% increased risk), for women and their babies who undergo non-medically necessitated inductions.

6 Your baby may have low heart rate

The medicines that are used to induce labor, which includes oxytocin or a prostaglandin, have the potential to trigger far too many contractions. These excessive contractions can easily diminish your baby oxygen supply, thereby interfering with and lowering your baby’s heart rate. Along with the risk of abnormal fetal heart rate, your baby may also suffer from problems like shoulder dystocia.

The fact of the matter is that labor is induced by intervening in some of the most natural processes of the body. It is achieved by the utilization of powerful drugs that bring on contractions or devices that break the water long before labor actually starts.

No matter the type of induction being used, they can easily make your baby react in a manner that will lead to fetal distress that can be seen on a fetal monitor. See, when it comes to induction, the contractions are likely to be far more forceful than natural ones.

This may make your baby either stay in or assume an unfavorable position for labor, thereby making the procedure longer and more painful for you.

Details about electronic fetal monitoring

Electronic fetal monitoring or EFM is a means of monitoring your baby and contractions during labor and birth. External fetal monitoring uses two belts: one that uses ultrasound to measure your baby's heart rate and the other is a pressure transducer used to measure your contractions.

This prints out onto paper or a computer screen a graphical representation of your baby's heart rate in response to your contractions.

5 Increased risk of your baby being admitted to the NICU

You need to bear in mind the fact that babies who are delivered via induction have not yet sent a signal to their mother’s body to begin labor. What this means is that babies like these are not ready to be born yet and are forcefully delivered. This risk is worth it if the baby or mother's lives are in danger, but simply to take this risk for elective reasons may not be well advised. It is due to this ‘forced’ initiative that a number of babies delivered via induction end up getting admitted to the NICU.

The fact of the matter is that if your baby ends up in the NICU, you will not be able to interact with him or hold on to him while he is there. The worst part is that babies in the NICU typically have a rocky start to breastfeeding as well. However, you can easily avoid all of these problems by simply giving birth when your baby and your body are ready for it.

What does research have to say in this regard?

According to research, more than 25% of infants who are delivered electively between 37 and 39 weeks need to be admitted to the NICU for at least 4.5 days. This risk can easily be avoided by letting your body and baby tell you when they’re ready to go into labor!

4 Your baby will be immature

A major reason why most babies delivered via induction end up in the NICU is because they are immature. For their precious little bodies, it becomes rather hard to maintain a normal body temperature as they do not have what it takes to handle cold or stress well.

Low blood sugar is also a problem that some babies who are delivered via induction get to face till the time that they get the hang of feeding. What’s worse is that breastfeeding can become rather tricky for them considering that they are smaller and weaker, which in turn makes them struggle at the breast.

Doctors typically let babies go home when these issues resolve within a few days, but many newborns end up back in the hospital with jaundice or lingering feeding problems, which can result in dehydration. If nursing continues to be difficult, your baby could miss out on the benefits of breastfeeding, such as increased immunity to common illnesses.

Something to remember

Even if near-term infants appear fine, they are developmentally and psychologically less mature than full-term infants. This puts them at a higher risk for mortality and morbidity in the newborn period. They are prone to issues like temperature instability, hypoglycemia, respiratory distress, apnea and bradycardia, and clinical jaundice.

3 Increased risk of vacuum extractions or forceps used for birth

The fact of the matter is that babies tend to remain in rather an unfavorable position when labor is induced. Because of this, it is normal for epidurals to be used for birthing purposes. But with that, there is also the increased risk of assisting the baby’s delivery with the help of forceps and vacuum extraction.

Women who have their labor induced are more than likely to ask for an epidural for pain management purposes as compared to women who go into labor naturally. This is because contractions triggered by labor induction are far more painful, thereby increasing the need to attain pain relief.

Epidurals come with their own set of risks, including increased chance of having a forceps- or vacuum-assisted vaginal delivery and fever in labor. Women who have fevers in labor are often treated with antibiotics and their babies may have tests and treatments and need to be observed in a special nursery.

Different induction methods

The induction method being used also has the potential to change the type of care and monitoring that will be required by a woman in labor. Induction of labor involves having at least one intravenous (IV) line, continuous electronic fetal monitoring, and medications after birth to reduce the risk of hemorrhage (too much bleeding).

The IV and fetal monitoring equipment make it harder to move around in labor, which can increase pain. Many hospitals don't allow women to eat or drink during induction of labor.

2 Your baby may have brain issues too

At 35 weeks of gestation, your baby’s brain weighs just about two thirds of what it will at 40 weeks. According to preliminary data acquired through research, it is for this reason that full-term babies tend to do far better in school that those that are delivered early. This actually makes a lot of sense, particularly in light of evidence that the earlier a baby is delivered, the higher the risk of having behavioral and learning issues.

Babies born between 34 and 36 weeks are more than three times as likely as those born at term to be diagnosed with cerebral palsy, a recent study finds. The number of babies affected is still reassuringly small, but after 37 weeks, the risks do drop significantly.

Breathing problems may arise too

Yes your baby puts up those earsplitting wails of a newborn, but you need to bear in mind the fact that a healthy set of lungs are one of the last organs to mature. It is for this reason that there is an increased risk of respiratory problems in babies that are delivered early.

If truth be told, newborns that are delivered at 37 weeks have a three times higher chance of suffering from respiratory distress syndrome (a severe newborn lung disease), transient tachypnea (rapid breathing), pneumonia, a need for a ventilator, and respiratory failure as babies born between 39 and 40 weeks.

1 Your labor may be far more ‘laborious’

The induction of labor typically involves the utilization of medications like prostaglandin (inserted vaginally or taken orally) to soften the cervix, or an IV with a synthetic form of oxytocin so as to trigger contractions. There is also the chance that your care provider will consider breaking your water (also called an artificial rupture of membranes).

A number of research studies have shown that that induced contractions tend to be stronger than those experienced during spontaneous labor, and a recent study reported that synthetic oxytocin (Pitocin) is the medicine most commonly associated with preventable complications during childbirth.

Your body can’t perform on demand

A major reason why induced labor typically ends up in a C-section is because you cannot expect your body to perform optimally on command. Research studies have shown that among women who have elective inductions, nearly 37% need to have an emergency C-section because their cervix simply isn't ready for labor.

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