Last updated on April 27th, 2021

Birth stories tend to be very comforting when you’re looking for ways to ease the nervousness surrounding your fast-approaching delivery. It is an excellent source related to real experiences – the various ways in which mothers prepare for delivery, the strategies adopted to cope with pain and after birth care. 

But there’s a flipside too. It exposes you to the troubles and complications of delivery. You must have come across stories of women who have passed their due date and were required to be induced medically. 

What does inducing labor to imply? Why do doctors suggest such medical intervention? Can everyone opt for medical induction of labor? And, are there any special precautions to take before you get induced? Learn everything right here. 

The body goes into labor once the uterus and cervix have ripened and are ready to deliver the baby. However, in certain cases, delivery needs assistance. Labor needs to be induced artificially through the use of medication or medical techniques. The methods of inducing labor include membrane sweep, use of prostaglandin in the form of vaginal insertions, pessary or gels, artificial rupture of the membranes (breaking the waters), or using Oxytocin. 

Why do you need an induction?

Expectant women are offered the option of induction by their healthcare providers in cases when early delivery is considered safer than prolonging the pregnancy. These include:

  • If you are overdue. It is normal to surpass your due date, especially if this is your first pregnancy. However, the absence of any signs of labor two weeks after your due date (beyond 40 weeks) will need a little help. Most doctors schedule an induction somewhere between the 40th and the 41st week.
  • If your waters have broken, but you do not experience any contractions. Contractions should start within 24 hours of the waters breaking. If you do not go into labor, you will need to be induced as there is an increased risk of infection.
  • If you suffer medical conditions such as diabetes, kidney disease and high blood pressure. These medical conditions threaten the health and well being of the baby. Health care professionals do not wait beyond the 38th week to induce labor in such cases.
  • If the mother’s uterus has developed a bacterial infection. There is a possibility of bacterial infection in the uterus, amniotic sac and also the amniotic fluid. The baby has to be developed preterm to prevent harm. Also, the amniotic fluid necessary for the baby’s growth and development may reduce in quantity. The condition is termed Oligohydramnios.
  • If the baby develops abnormally or not at the expected rate. Many-a-times doctors are forced to induce labor to terminate a pregnancy wherein the baby has severe abnormalities or if it dies in the mother’s womb. Other conditions that need labor to be induced are a baby bigger than its gestational age and stalled fetal growth.
  • If there is placental abruption – the placenta may separate partially or completely from the inner uterine wall.
  • If you develop preeclampsia. 

Precautionary Measures before Inducing Labor

You should always discuss the procedure with your doctor. Before he induces labor, the doctor, will examine the state of the cervix to decide if the cervix is ripe or not. The state of the cervix is important as it determines the success of the induction; more prepared the cervix more successful is your induction. You may also want to consider “if” clauses- what if the induction fails? What after a failed induction attempt. 

Many women elect to induce labor for personal reasons. If they want their parents to be with them or if a business obligation does not allow their husbands to be there for the delivery as per the due date and a lot more. We would advise you not to opt for an induction unless absolutely necessary. Let nature run its course.

Common Methods of Inducing Labor

You’ve just returned from what might be your last prenatal checkup. You’ve passed your due date and also measure a little bit. 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.

Prostaglandin

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.

Inducing Labor

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 amnio hook (resembles a crochet hook) or a medical glove with a sharp point on one of the fingers (amniotic) 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.

Oxytocin/ Syntocinon

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.

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