7 Things to Know About Labor Induction
It’s something like your 400th week of pregnancy, and you’re ready to burst. Every little tinge, kick, and twang might be a contraction — but it’s a no-go. So your doc schedules an induction. Not that it always happens this way; sometimes inductions are planned, and other times it’s a complete surprise. Whether you know for sure that induction is part of your baby’s big ol’ birth day or you’re just planning for every possible scenario, check out the lowdown on this medical means for kicking off labor.
1. Drugs are mandatory. Your birth plan includes an all-natural day of delivery. You’ve practiced your breathing, are all about meditation, and know that you don’t want any of the doctor’s drugs. But the baby isn’t coming, and your doc wants to start an induction. That means you may need medications. Specifically, you’ll need an IV of Pitocin (a synthetic version of oxytocin) to start contractions. You may also need synthetic prostaglandins to help ripen your cervix. Don’t stress too much about your baby being born all “drugged out.” Yes, you’re technically taking drugs to start labor, but these aren’t anywhere near the same class as the painkillers you wanted to stay away from.
2. They’re not necessarily planned. Your best mom friend was two weeks past her due date when the OB decided to schedule an induction, and an overdue delivery can certainly be a reason to do so. But some of them are much more sudden. There’s a buffet of reasons why a doctor may decide an induction is necessary right away, including medical conditions and emergencies that affect you, the baby, or both of you, such as preeclampsia, kidney disease, a problem with the placenta, or a serious infection.
3. Your doc may strip your membranes. This may sound rather unpleasant, but it’s one way that your doc can start labor without resorting to meds. Your health care provider runs their finger (gloved, of course) over the membranes that connect the amniotic sac to the uterine wall. If all goes well, your body will start releasing prostaglandins, and labor will follow. If not, there’s still breaking your water and synthetic hormones to try.
4. Your doc may break your water. That gush of amniotic fluid is exactly what you think about when you hear “Hey, I’m in labor.” Well, sometimes it’s more like a tiny trickle. Either way, your water breaking is part of L & D. After you’ve started to dilate, your OB may need to manually break your water. The medical pro will use a thin, hooked instrument to break those membranes. Even though it’s not exactly comfortable, it’s typically not any worse than your annual pelvic exam. And bonus: This may actually jump-start labor enough to avoid those induction meds. Maybe.
5. Some women choose it. Yep, some women want an induction. This is where it gets dicey. Oh, and judgy too. Even though the rates of elective induction are on the decline, according to the CDC, these procedures are still done. Most experts agree that inducing before 39 weeks’ gestation for non-medical reasons (like planning around a big move) isn’t advisable. Planning an induction out of choice, rather than necessity, is still somewhat controversial. Always talk to your medical provider for their expert opinion on any delivery day issue.
6. There are risks. When you have a medical emergency or that baby just refuses to come out, the benefits of induction will usually outweigh the risks. Keep that in mind if your OB brings up the possibility. If you’re planning an induction for non-medical reasons or have a choice, certainly talk to your doc about the potentially serious risks. Some of these include a longer hospital stay, an increased chance of having a C-section, the potential for infection, and a higher risk of delivery complications such as uterine rupture.
7. Home inductions are a thing. No, we’re not talking about something a licensed medical professional does outside of the hospital. Some mamas-to-be believe in old wives’ tales and so-called home induction options, which include everything from sex to herbal remedies. While getting romantic is generally okay (and probably welcomed by your S.O.!), it’s best to check with your doc before using any type of herbal or OTC remedy.
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(Photo via Getty)