If you’re pregnant and your due date is coming up, you’re probably thinking about what it’s going to be like to deliver your baby. Of course, every delivery experience is different.
What Is Labor Induction?
When you’re reaching the end of your pregnancy, your doctor or midwife may have concerns about your own health or your baby’s health. They may decide that the best course of action would be to speed up the birthing process, which is referred to as induced labor, or induction. Instead of waiting for you to go into labor naturally, your doctor or midwife may use methods of induction like medication to get you to go into labor sooner.
Of course, this decision is initially driven by your doctor’s concern for you and your baby’s health so it may be the best choice for some women. However, although it can avoid danger, it also has its own risks.
Reasons for Labor Induction
Of course, allowing yourself to go into labor naturally is most ideal, however it may not always be your choice. There are many possible reasons why induction is necessary as part of your birthing process.
If your water breaks, it is an indication that you're about to go into labor. However, if you haven’t started getting contractions after this happens, it can be a sign that you may need an induction.
Contractions occur when your cervix dilates so that your baby can make its way out of your body. A lack of contractions could mean that your body is not getting ready to deliver your baby, even though it should be. If this happens, your doctor or midwife may resort to an induction.
Not every pregnancy will go on for the typical 40-week duration - some pregnancies may exceed this. If you’re one or two weeks past your due date, you are at greater risk of having a C-section or labor induction. However, doctors will also avoid labor induction too early on.
Other health problems that you may have can also pose a threat to your delivery and your baby’s health. If you have health conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, preeclampsia, or eclampsia, your doctor or midwife may induce labor. Your baby’s health problems can also have an impact on the risk of your delivery. For instance, if your baby isn’t growing like it should be or has an abnormal heart rate, you are at a greater risk of labor induction.
How Does It Work
Now that you know the possible causes of having to induce labor, you may be wondering how induction works. Of course, the safest thing to do is see your doctor so they can use medicine and other medical methods. Trying to induce labor on your own should not be done without speaking to your doctor or midwife first.
Your doctor can use medication through an IV tube in your arm that will help to start your contractions. You will start with a small dose and it will increase until your contractions are strong and effective enough for you to give birth to your baby.
A non-medication way for your doctor to induce labor is with a balloon catheter. This can be done by inserting a thin tube in your vagina to your cervical opening (which is also called cervical ripening). The doctor will inflate the balloon, which causes your cervix to expand (dilate).
Hormones are also a very effective method that doctors use to induce your labor. A hormone called prostaglandins are used to open your cervix to get it ready for contractions.
Risks of Inducing Labor
As mentioned, labor induction may be the safest resort, however it comes with its own risks, such as:
- Failed induction
- Risk of infection
- Longer hospital stay
- Can lower your heart rate
- Urine rupture
- Bleeding after delivery
Remember that the benefits of labor induction (if you need it) outweigh the risks. No matter your birthing experience - even if it’s not what you expected - remember that it’s all worth it in the end!