What does it mean to induce labour?

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Sometimes your doctor might decide that it’s best to induce labour rather than natural childbirth.

What does it mean to induce labour?

When the labour doesn’t start on its own, it needs to be induced, and so the doctor gives you medication and uses other techniques for the same. The doctor uses the same methods to speed up or increase your labour if it stops progressing for some reason. According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 1 in 5 births in the United States are induced.

Why is labour induced?


There are some reasons your practitioner may decide to induce labour, including:

  • You’re overdue. If you do not enter labour even after a week or two past the due date, experts advise waiting no longer than that to give birth because it puts you and your baby at greater risk for a variety of problems. When there’s no action from in your uterus, the doctor might induce labour around 42 weeks.
  • There’s a complication. Sometimes conditions like preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, problems with amniotic fluid, diabetes, or issues with the placenta make it risky to continue the pregnancy.
  • Your membranes ruptured. If your water has broken and contractions have not started on their own within 24 hours, your doctor may induce.
  • There is evidence that your placenta is having some problems, or that your baby isn’t thriving, or that you have too little amniotic fluid, or the baby is not growing as he should. The doctor might induce labour in the above cases if the tests suggest that the baby is mature enough to deliver.
  • You might not make it to the hospital. You may be induced if you live far from where you’re delivering or have had a previous short labour because there’s concern that you might not make it to the hospital or birthing centre on time. An elective induction will be scheduled at the place where you plan to deliver, and you should be no earlier than 39 weeks.
  • You’ve previously had a stillbirth.

What techniques are used to induce labour?


The techniques used to induce labour depends on the condition of the women’s cervix at the time. When you are not ready for labour, the cervix might not have started to soften, or dilate (open up) or efface (thin out). This is considered as “unripe,” cervix. In that case, your provider would use either medicinal or “mechanical” methods to ripen your cervix before starting the induction. This tends to shorten the length of labour, and sometimes these procedures end up jump-starting your labour as well. If your labour doesn’t start, you’ll be started on an IV infusion of oxytocin. This drug (often referred to by the brand name Pitocin) is a synthetic form of the hormone that your body produces naturally during spontaneous labour.

To ripen your cervix and induce labour, your healthcare provider may:

  • Use prostaglandins
  • Use a Foley catheter
  • Strip or sweep your membranes
  • Rupture your membranes
  • Use oxytocin (Pitocin)

Reasons Not to Induce

You’ll need to have a c-section rather than an induction whenever it would be unsafe to labour and deliver vaginally, and this includes the following situations:

  • There is any indication that the baby can’t survive contractions or if the baby needs to be delivered immediately.
  • You have placenta previa, a condition that means your placenta is positioned unusually low in your uterus, either next to or covering your cervix.
  • Your baby is in a breech or transverse position, meaning that he’s not coming headfirst.
  • You’ve had more than one c-section. (Some providers believe that women with even one previous c-section shouldn’t be induced.)
  • You had a previous c-section with a “classical” (vertical) uterine incision or another uterine surgery, such as a procedure to remove fibroids (myomectomy).
  • You’re having twins and the first baby is breech, or you’re having triplets or more.
  • You have an active genital herpes infection.

Risks of induced labour

Some complication might arise though in the most cases labour induction goes smoothly, They include:

  • Longer hospital stay
  • The uterus contracting too quickly, causing changes in fetal heart rate or umbilical cord problems
  • Infection in mother or baby
  • Uterine rupture
  • Increased risk of C-section
  • Increased need for pain medicine
  • Complications during delivery
  • It might also result in fetal death in rare cases

However, throughout the procedure, your baby will be continuously monitored via electronic fetal monitoring, which will help your practitioner to assess how he or she is dealing with the stress of induced labour and take steps to protect both of you.

How to induce labour at home?


No, try anything to induce labour yourself. None of the self-methods has been proven consistently to be both safe and effective. Here’s the scoop on some of the techniques you may have heard about:

  • Sexual intercourse: Semen contains prostaglandins, and having an orgasm may stimulate contractions.
  • Nipple stimulation: Stimulating your nipples releases oxytocin and may help start labour.
  • Use of castor oil as this is a strong laxative.
  • Herbal remedies: A variety of herbs are promoted as useful for labour induction

Don’t try any of these home methods without first talking to your doctor or midwife. Some could pose risks.

In some scenarios, labour induction doesn’t work. This happens especially for first-time mothers and those whose cervix isn’t effaced and dilated. If this is the case for you, your doctor may try to induce labour again or opt for a C-section.