You’ve just returned from what might be your last prenatal checkup. You’ve passed your due date and also measure a little big. Your obstetrician informed you that if you don’t go into labor naturally in the coming 5 days you will need to be induced.
Your doc has briefed you on the basics of the process. But, what you’re eager to know is how are the labor pains going to be induced? Given below is a list of the common methods used to initiate labor.
Membrane Sweep or Membrane Stripping
This is the most common method used to induce labor. The process is very easy. It is performed in your doctor’s office during a pelvic exam. Thin membranes attach the amniotic sac to the uterine wall. The doctor inserts his finger into the cervix and moves it back and forth to lift and separate the thin membranes. Doing so, releases the hormone prostaglandins. It softens the cervix and helps to bring on contractions.
The membranes can be separated at one time or the doctor may strip them gradually each time you visit his office depending on your particular situation.
Sweeping the membranes may not induce labor immediately. Also, it may not work for all women.
Like mentioned above, prostaglandin is the hormone that prepares the cervix for delivery. It ripens the cervix and triggers uterine contractions. The doctor smears the cervix with a prostaglandin gel or may insert a tablet or pessary containing the hormone. It makes the cervix soft and thins and dilates it for delivery.
The method can be used alone or in combination with the drug Oxytocin (administered before the Oxytocin dose). If there are no signs of labor after the first dose, the doctor administers the second dose after 6 hours. There are very few drawbacks of this method.
Artificially Rupturing The Membranes
It is called “Breaking the waters” in common language. In this method, the doctor ruptures the amniotic sac. He uses of long, sterile plastic hook called the amniohook (resembles a crochet hook) or a medical glove with a sharp point on one of the fingers (amnicot) to do so. This method is not usually recommended as it increases the risk of infection for the baby. However, many doctors use it if labor has slowed down or stalled. It proves to be the most effective when used in combination with prostaglandin and Oxytocin.
The medications are administered intravenously. It is given after a membrane sweep or after the use of prostaglandin to initiate labor. It is also given if labor is not progressing properly or if it has stalled. Syntocinon and Oxytocin are not two different medications. The former is a synthetic form of Oxytocin. Following the administration of Oxytocin, the baby and mother have to be monitored closely.
This method has the most risks. It can cause hyper-stimulation and overstimulation of the uterus. There are also increased chances that your baby might be in distress.
The doctor will choose any one of the above mentioned methods. He may also have to repeat the process several times or change the method to initiate labor successfully.