Labor induction has been occurring more and more frequently in the United States. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in 2006 that 1 in 5 women had their labors induced. This is twice as many as it was in 1990. Labor induction is a procedure where contractions are sped up to move things along. This can be done to start labor or to restart labor if contractions have slowed down during the process. Inducing labor does have its risks though. Some of these include things such as fetal distress, placental abruption, uterine rupture, increased risk of having a c-section, and increased risk of having a premature baby. While labor induction has become very common, it can still be a dangerous procedure.
Generally an induction will occur for one of the following reasons: maternal illness such as diabetes or high blood pressure; fetal illness; gestation beyond 41 weeks: and social induction. Social induction is when the labor is planned because you live very far away from the hospital, to get the particular physician you desire, to aim for a specific birth date, or to schedule around work or family obligations. Social inductions are not typically recommended as the risks associated with labor induction are still high. Sometimes the physicians will be more than willing to start inducing on the due date when it is known that the due date can be slightly off. It is important to let your physician know whether or not you want to induce. Keep in mind that while it might seem like a good idea to get the pregnancy over with, you also want to aim for the best possible outcome.
If you know you will need to be induced, there are some things you can do to prepare yourself for the procedure. First you will want to be very clear with your doctor on how the labor will be induced as there are many different methods. One way is by doing what is called “sweeping” of the amniotic sac. The nurse or doctor will place their finger between the amniotic sac and the cervix to try to get things moving along. They also can use a long amnihook, which looks like a crochet hook, to break the sac. Keep in mind that once this is done, there is no going back. When the sac is ruptured, the baby has to come out because their protective fluid is reduced. This fluid and sac is what prevents infection for your baby.
Another method to accelerate labor is medication. A small capsule of prostaglandin can be placed by the cervix to help it soften, open and thin out. Also, Oxytocin can be given via an IV. Oxytocin is a hormone that speeds up labor. Pitocin is the synthetic form of Oxytocin and is commonly used. There are also several forms of natural induction that might be recommended by such caregivers as birthing attendants, midwives or doulas. Nipple stimulation is a common way to get the body to naturally release Oxytocin. Care must be taken though as sometimes too much of the hormone will be released. Stimulation can be done with a breast pump or manually by hand.
There are several old wives’ tales regarding how to get labor to start. Some suggestions are to do a lot of exercise, eat spicy foods, ingest castor oil, dance naked in the moonlight and have sexual intercourse. Be sure to take great care when trying some of these methods as you can actually end up doing more harm than good. Discuss your labor induction options with your doctor, do your own research and decide what you think will be best for both you and baby on your special birth day.?