If you are pregnant and contemplating your birth plan, you might also be wondering about measures that may need to be taken if something does not go according to plan. One topic you should be educated on is labor induction, or being induced, which is sometimes necessary for the health of you and your baby. Below are five important things you need to know about being induced.
1. Being Induced Stimulates Uterine Contractions
Labor induction is a term that refers to the artificial start of the birth process through medical intervention. Inducing labor is intended to stimulate contractions of the uterus to have a vaginal birth. Being induced is often avoided but can become medically necessary if the mother and/or baby is in distress.
2. You Should Only Be Induced When Medically Necessary
While elective labor induction is sometimes used to accommodate schedules and make things more convenient (such as if the patient lives far away from the hospital), the American College of Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that induction only be used when it is medically necessary. Medical necessity comes into play when it is riskier to let the baby remain inside the uterus than to induce labor. Elective inductions should never be given before 39 weeks of pregnancy.
3. Induction Can Be Necessary for Several Reasons
There are a handful of scenarios in which being induced is the safest option. All of these scenarios include potential risks to the mother and/or baby. Some reasons that induction may be needed include:
- The baby is overdue by two weeks. Prolonged pregnancy past 42 weeks can pose a threat to the baby as the nutrition from the placenta gradually decreases after a certain point.
- There is a complication that makes waiting for natural labor dangerous. Complications can include:
- Gestational diabetes
- Heart disease
- An infection inside the uterus known as Chorioamnionitis is present.
- Labor has not started within the first 24-48 hours following the rupturing of the amniotic sac.
- The baby is at risk of not getting proper nutrients and oxygen from the placenta.
4. There Are Three Methods Used for Inducing Labor
Depending on your specific condition and what you decide with your doctor, labor can be induced in three ways.
- Medications: You may be given hormonal medications that will start labor. Two medications are commonly given when being induced:
- Oxytocin: This is a hormone that the body naturally produces to stimulate the uterus and cause contractions for labor. Small doses of the hormone can be administered through an IV to start contractions. Two brands of oxytocin you may be familiar with are Pitocin and Syntocinon. This medication can also be used to speed up labor that is not progressing quickly enough. One thing to know about being induced with oxytocin is that the contractions can progress quickly, making them difficult to manage without pain medication.
- Prostaglandin: This medication comes in the form of a vaginal suppository, which is inserted in the evening. It will stimulate the uterus and cause the start of labor by morning. An advantage of prostaglandin is that the mother is not connected to an IV drip so she can move more freely around the labor room.
- Artificial Rupture of the Membranes (AROM): In this method, the amniotic sac is artificially ruptured to increase the production of prostaglandin and start or speed up contractions. The membranes are ruptured with a sterile thin plastic hook, which is brushed against the membranes just inside the cervix. This will cause the baby’s head to move down and press against the cervix, which increases the strength of contractions.
- Nipple Stimulation: This more natural method can be performed manually or with an electric breast pump. The stimulation of the nipples increases oxytocin production, which can cause contractions and initiate labor. Similarly, after the baby is born, nursing can stimulate contractions and slow postpartum bleeding.
5. After Being Induced, You Can Still Make Your Own Decision About Pain Medication
The goal of induction is to have a normal vaginal birth, so even when you are induced, you will be able to choose whether or not to receive pain medication during labor. Some women prefer to stick to breathing exercises and pushing at their own pace without medications, while other women opt to get an epidural or other pain medication.
At GreenValley OB/GYN, our doctors have more than 200 years of combined experience with pregnancy care and delivery, so we are well versed in subjects like labor induction. If you have questions or concerning things you need to know about being induced, our expert physicians and staff are here to provide advice and guidance. To make an appointment, call our office at 336-378-1110 or request one through our online patient portal.