Labor Induction

1 What is a Labor Induction?

A procedure used to stimulate uterine contractions during pregnancy before the labor begins on its own is called labor induction or inducing labor which can lead to vaginal birth.

The main reason for this procedure if there is a concern about the mother’s health or the baby’s health but there may be other reasons for this.

This procedure can sometimes carry risks such as the need for a C-section or infection. To help you prepare, you should know and understand all about labor induction.

2 Reasons for Procedure

Here are the most common reasons to undergo a labor induction.

You will be evaluated by your doctor to determine if labor induction is necessary for you.

It will include your health, your baby’s health and position in the uterus, your baby’s gestational age and the status of your cervix.

This procedure may be suggested if:

  • You are approaching two weeks beyond due date and labor has not started yet.
  • Your water has broken but you do not have any contraction.
  • Your baby has stopped growing at the expected pace.
  • There is an infection in your uterus.
  • Your placenta has begun to deteriorate.
  • There is not enough amniotic fluid surrounding the baby (oligohydramnios).
  • You have a medical condition such as diabetes or high blood pressure which puts you or your baby at risk.
  • The placenta peels away from the inner wall of the uterus before delivery (placental abruption).

A scheduled induction may help you avoid an unattended delivery if you live far from the hospital. To reduce the risk of health problems for your baby, your doctor must first confirm that your baby’s gestational age is at least 39 weeks or older.

To avoid causing sudden disruption at home or work or for convenience also, some women request labor induction.

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3 Potential Risks

The possible risks of labor induction include:

  • Premature birth – when the procedure is done too early which can lead to the baby having the difficulty of breathing.
  • Mostly it will result in C-section especially if you have never given birth before you have an unfavorable cervix.
  • Infection that can happen to both mother and baby.
  • The low heart rate of the baby because this procedure can diminish your baby’s oxygen supply.
  • Uterine rupture can happen when the uterus tears open along the scar line from a prior C-section.
  • Umbilical cord problems such as umbilical cord prolapse.
  • Bleeding after delivery.

Labor induction may not be an option if:

  • The placenta is blocking your cervix (placenta previa).
  • You have a prior C-section with a classical incision or major surgery.
  • You have an active genital herpes infection.
  • Your baby is lying crosswise in the uterus (transverse fetal lie).
  • Your birth canal is too small to allow for a normal birth or labor.

Your doctor will avoid certain medications to reduce the risk of uterine rupture if you had a prior major uterine surgery and have labor induced.

4 Preparing for your Procedure

Before admission, some preparatory steps may be done. This labor induction is done in the hospital where both you and your baby will be monitored and delivery services are readily available.

5 What to Expect

Here you can find out what to expect from your labor induction procedure.

There are different methods for inducing labor such as:

  • Sweep or strip the amniotic membranes – your doctor will put gloves on his fingers and insert it in your cervical opening and rotate it to separate the amniotic sac from the wall of the uterus, you may experience spotting and cramping.
  • Ripen your cervix – this can be placed inside the vagina or taken orally, your doctor may also use laminaria which is a small rod made from seaweed or a small balloon-tipped catheter. The balloon will expand because of the saline. The use of laminaria can cause cramping and dilators inserted into the cervix absorb moisture and get thicker, opening the cervix. Your contractions and your baby's heart rate will initially be monitored after prostaglandin use.
  • Break your water – this is also known as amniotomy and your doctor will make a small opening in the amniotic sac which you may feel a warm gush of fluid, your baby’s heart rate will be monitored and this is done if your cervix is thinned and dilated. Your doctor will check if there are any meconium or fecal waste.
  • Use an intravenous medication – a hormone that causes the uterus to contract known as oxytocin (Pitocin) will be given to you by your doctor to induce labor if your cervix is already dilating and thinning. Your doctor will monitor your baby’s heart rate and your contractions. How your body responds to the induction techniques is how long it takes for labor to start depends on. It might take two days before labor begins if your cervix needs time to ripen. Your doctor may give you epidural block if relaxation and breathing techniques are not enough to control the pain.

Labor induction leads to a successful vaginal birth. If labor induction doesn't lead to delivery, a C-section might be needed. There might be no implications for future pregnancies if you have a successful vaginal delivery after induction.

6 Procedure Results

Understanding the results of your labor induction will be made possible by your doctor.

After induction, you might have a chance of successful vaginal delivery, if this happens future pregnancies will have no implications.

You and your doctor will discuss whether to attempt a vaginal delivery with a subsequent pregnancy or to schedule a repeat C-section if the induction leads to a C-section.

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