Inducing Labor: Why, How, What If?
If you have passed your due date and there is no sign of showing any early signs of labor your healthcare provider may choose to induce labor. At the moment almost 25% of all births across the United States are induced.
Inducing labor means that your healthcare provider uses certain techniques to help bring about labor, or even just to speed up the process. There are a number of reasons as to why your doctor may choose to induce labor.
Reasons for inducing labor:
Some of the common reasons as to why your doctor may induce you are:
- Prolonging your pregnancy may have a negative effect on your baby, or place you or your baby at risk.
- If your water has broken, but there are no signs of your labor progressing sufficiently.
- You are more than two weeks past your due date.
- Your placenta is not functioning as it should.
- You have developed preeclampsia.
- Other illness or condition which may effect your baby’s health.
- You have a history of stillbirth.
How is labor induced?
There are a few different methods which your healthcare provider may choose to use in order to induce labor. The method which he or she chooses to use may depend on the condition of your cervix.
If your cervix has not yet begun to dilate or soften, then your doctor will usually choose to use hormones or a ‘mechanical’ method to begin labor. Some common methods which may be used are:
- Stripping or sweeping the membranes. This is usually used if your cervix is already started dilating then your doctor may use his/her finger and manually separate your bag of waters from the lower part of your uterus. This usually results in the release of the hormone prostaglandins which would normally result in contractions starting.
- Prostaglandin medication. This method is often used to help ripen your cervix, and is carried out by inserting the medication into your vagina in order to attempt to stimulate contractions and ripen your cervix. However, there are often side effect associated with this method, such as fetal distress, high temperature, diarrhea and possible hemorrhaging.
- Foley catheter. By inserting a catheter with a small uninflated balloon at the end of it into your cervix, and by then filling the balloon with water this simulates the release of prostaglandin which should cause your cervix to begin to open and soften.
- Rupturing the membranes. In the event that your cervix has dilated to a few centimeters but does not seem to be progressing, your doctor can insert a hooked instrument, usually shaped like a crochet hook, to break your waters. In most cases that is enough to kick your labor into life, however, if it doesn’t then your doctor may also administer a drug called oxytocin (Pitocin).
- Pitocin. During labor your body will naturally produce the hormone oxytocin. Pitocin is a synthetic form of this hormone and is usually given through an IV and is controlled during the course of delivery.
Inducing Labor Naturally
There are a few “do it yourself” theories about how you can go about kick starting your labor naturally. As with most do-it-yourself methods, there is little to no proof that they actually work.
- Sexual activity. A woman’s orgasm will cause oxytocin, which is a hormone that causes the uterus to contract, to be released. Of course semen also contains prostaglandins, which can help soften the cervix.
- Acupuncture or acupressure
- Homeopathic remedies
- Herbal preparations
- Good bowl of hot curry
Are there risks with inducing labor?
One of the major concerns with inducing labor is that it will not be successful and that you will then need to undergo a cesarean. Having a c-section after a failed induction increases your chances of further complications, infection and possibly a longer recovery period.
Some other possible side effects include:
- Hyperstimulation of the uterus resulting in additional stress being placed on your baby.
- Placental abruption. Ruptures are extremely rare in women who have never had a cesarean section, although they are higher in women who are attempting to have a VBAC.
When should labor not be induced?
There are occasions when inducing labor may not be the best option, these include:
- When your baby needs to be delivered immediately.
- Your body won’t cope with the stress of contractions.
- You have a placenta previa.
- Your baby is in a breech position.
- You have had more than one c-section.
- If you’re having twins and the first baby is breech.
- You have an active genital herpes infection.