The Thought of Inducing Labor is Hard to Avoid. What Are the Pros and Cons, and How is it Done?

Inducing labor seems to be common buzz among the baby-bellied. The last few weeks of pregnancy so often feel like such a waiting game. Many moms just want to get it over with. For other women, their care provider suggests induction for one reason or another. Either way, it ends up on many pregnant women's minds.

The first question you should ask yourself if you're considering inducing labor is simple: "Why?" Then dig a little deeper to see whether this is really a good reason to induce or not.

There are a few reasons inducing labor may be considered medically necessary. Examples of this include:

Complications in mom or baby, including preeclampsia or diabetes

Baby isn't growing properly or isn't getting enough nutrients from the placenta

Pregnancy goes too far past the estimated due date (read more on this below!)

When there isn't a true medical need to induce, it's considered elective. Elective inductions are done for either mother or caregiver preference.

It's common for caregivers to offer or even suggest induction at the end of pregnancy. A couple common reasons they might recommend inducing labor are:

You've gone past your estimated due date. Just remember that it's called an "estimated" date for a reason. If your pregnancy goes full term, you can expect your baby anywhere from 2 weeks before to 2 weeks after. If you go one day over your "due date" that doesn't mean you are overdue or that your baby is in danger. Only about 5% of babies are born on their "due date."

The ultrasound shows you have a big baby. You're told if you wait that your chances of a C-Section go up. Ultrasound machines can give an estimate of the size of your baby. Sometimes they are pretty accurate, and sometimes not. This estimate can be plus or minus 2 pounds! That's quite a range, and gives reason not to put too much concern into this number. Also remember that women have been having babies since the beginning of time. Many, many women have given birth to large babies and been fine, even small women. Our awesome female bodies are made perfectly to birth babies, and they will expand to fit even a large baby.

Pros and Cons of Inducing Labor

It's important to understand the disadvantages of inducing labor. At the end of pregnancy, when you feel huge and uncomfortable, it's easy to look over the risks because you're so eager to have your baby.

Often, induction is the first step to what's considered a "cascade of intervention." Basically, once you start a labor with intervention, it's more likely that more intervention will be used as your labor progresses. Sometimes, this leads to an unnecessary C-section.

Many studies have shown that there is an increased risk of C-section when labor is induced medically. The likelihood of needing a C-section after induction depends on many factors. You are most likely to have a successful induction if you have given birth vaginally before, your cervix is ready for labor and you have begun to dilate. Keep in mind that this means you'll probably go into labor soon anyway! The chance that an induced labor will end in Cesarean is greater for a first time mom with an unripe cervix, meaning it is firm and long and has not dilated at all.

The obvious benefit to inducing labor is planning. You have more control over your schedule, rather than waiting around for labor to start on its own. You can guarantee that the doctor or midwife you want will be the one with you, rather than possibly using the doctor on call at the hospital. You don't have to worry about going into labor at 2 in the morning, or finding a last minute babysitter if you have other kids.

How to Induce Labor

Let's look at the different methods of labor induction. Then you can evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Natural Ways to Induce Labor There are several natural methods to induce labor. These deserve a page of their own.

Medical Methods of Induction

Pitocin is an artificial form of oxytocin, which your body produces naturally when labor starts. Oxytocin causes the uterus to contract.

Cervadil or Prepidil
These are two different synthetic forms of a type of prostaglandin. Prostaglandins are also produced naturally in the body at the beginning of labor. They cause the cervix to soften and prepare for labor.

Misoprostol (Cytotec)
This is a synthetic form of another type of prostaglandin. It helps stimulate labor by causing contractions and ripening, or thinning, the cervix. The use of Cytotec to induce labor is controversial.

Cervical Dilators
There are a couple different types of mechanical dilators that can be placed in the cervix. These cause the cervix to open.

Amniotomy is the artificial rupture of membranes (AROM), or breaking water. This is done by inserting what looks like a crochet hook into the vagina and breaking the amniotic sac.

Stripping the Membranes
A doctor or midwife can strip the membranes to possibly induce labor. This is also called a stretch and sweep. The cervix is gently stretched with a finger. Then the finger is swept between the cervix and the bag of water.

The last two options listed may be options to try if you would like to avoid using any sort of medication to induce labor. These can both be done first to see if labor starts before using pitocin or synthetic prostaglandins.

Think it over!

I know it can be really hard at the end, when you feel so huge you can barely move and you are unbelievably uncomfortable. Although inducing labor can seem so convenient, mull over the pros and cons before you decide. Know that your baby will come soon; no one is pregnant forever!

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