Labor usually starts naturally as you approach the end of your pregnancy. This is between 37-42 weeks. In some circumstances, however, your doctor may recommend that you labor be induced. In such instances, you will be put on medication and monitored as you begin the process of labor. Let’s go a little in-depth on the induction of labour and why it may be necessary.
Why Labor May Be Induced
Your doctor may recommend induced labor under the following circumstances:
- When you’re giving birth to multiples
- Waters have broken but contractions haven’t started.
- Your baby isn’t making movements
- Changes in the baby’s heart rate
- If you are overdue (41 weeks)
- If you have a health condition such as diabetes, high blood pressure or kidney problems
How is Labor Induced?
Depending on what your doctor recommends after examination, inductions usually happens in several ways. These are:
- Oxytocin-A synthetic version of the hormone oxytocin is given through drip to start contractions
- Sweeping the membranes-Your doctor disturbs the membrane that is holding the amniotic fluid by making circular motions. Membrane sweep, although uncomfortable may trigger labor.
- Prostaglandin-A synthetic version of the hormone prostaglandin is administered to your cervix. It can be in gel form and its function is to soften the cervix.
- Artificial Rupturing of the membranes (breaking the waters) – Your doctor may insert a hook to rupture the membrane that holds amniotic fluid to start labor.
Induction of labor may come with several risks and should only be done in a hospital where complications can be managed. These risks include:
- Increased risk of infection if the amniotic sac is broken and baby isn’t delivered in 2 days
- Higher risk of a C-section if induction doesn’t work
- The need of an epidural may be necessary as induction may cause painful contractions.
- Longer hospital stays in hospital especially if you undergo a c-section.
- You may have a uterine rupture
- You may be at risk of excessive postpartum bleeding.
Induction of labor is considered to be working when contractions start happening close together and the cervix starts to dilate. A doctor will usually monitor your progress and decide on what happens next.
Can a Labor Induction Fail?
The answer is yes. This may happen because your body has an internal way of releasing oxytocin (the hormone responsible for contraction of the uterus). Adding oxytocin artificially is usually done through drip and in large doses. This may cause flooding of the body with this hormone and your body may fail to respond. When this happens a C-section will be carried out.
With all this in mind, it is important to get as much information about induction from your doctor so that you are informed about what is going to happen next.
Please note that development differs from one child to another.
Content intended for educational purposes only, and not a substitute for medical advice from your doctor.
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Last reviewed March 2019
Sources: webmd, pregnancybirthbaby, marchofdimes, parenting.firstcry