Labor begins naturally once the pregnancy reaches its full term. But when it doesn’t, even after 40 or 41 weeks, doctors may recommend labor induction to kick start the process of childbirth artificially. Your doctors may want to induce labor if they sense any risk to the baby.
Labor induction is a common and safe procedure that aims to protect the mother and the baby. While most women get into labor naturally once they reach the due date, some may need this assistance. Keep reading this MomJunction post as we tell you what labor induction is, why and how it is done, and its related risks.
What Is Labor Induction?
Induction is a procedure that doctors may undertake to initiate labor to deliver the baby vaginally. This is recommended when the advantages of prompt delivery are more significant than the risks of watchful waiting (expectant management). The main aim of labor induction is to ensure the best health of the baby and the mother.
Note that labor is induced only if the due date has passed and there is any medical reason to support the normal delivery of the baby.
In What Cases Is Labor Induced?
Medical professionals recommend inducing labor only when it is necessary. Some of the reasons include:
- Premature rupture of membranes causes the water to break, but there could be a risk of infection to the baby. The doctor would wait for 24 hours or less and would recommend induction of labor (1).
- Post-term pregnancy, or when the pregnancy progresses beyond 42 weeks but there are no signs of labor, the doctors would induce labor.
- Chorioamnionitis is one of the common pregnancy infections that may inflame or rupture the membranes. This may lead to a bacterial infection and have adverse effects on the infant and the mother. To avoid such risks, labor induction is suggested.
- Gestational diabetes or high blood pressure may pose an increased risk during childbirth. When there is a risk that it could become worse for the mom or could affect the baby, doctors induce labor and deliver the baby as soon as possible.
- Others factors such as intrauterine growth restriction, history of short labors, and any condition where the baby needs immediate medical care can also warrant labor induction.
In the next section, we see the methods used for labor induction.
How Is Labor Induced?
There are several ways in which labor is induced. Your doctor will discuss the suitable procedure for you and proceed accordingly.
- Medications: Certain drugs can be taken orally or vaginally to ripen the cervix. Prostaglandin and oxytocin may be used by the professional to prepare your body for cervical ripening and contractions (2).
- Stripping of membranes: The medical professional will insert a gloved finger between the amniotic membrane and cervix to strip the membranes. After the cervix is softened, contractions are triggered, and labor begins (3).
- Amniotomy: This procedure involves the artificial rupturing of membranes. A tiny hole is made to the amniotic membrane or the bag of water with a medical instrument. After a few hours of this procedure, labor starts (4).
- Foley catheter: A small tube is inserted into the cervix through the vagina to open the cervix. The catheter will come out when the cervix dilates to 3cm, and the labor starts (5).
These labor induction procedures are done at the hospital as both the mother and the baby are continuously monitored before, during, and after the delivery. Talk to the doctor and understand the procedure of labor induction beforehand to prepare yourself.
What Happens If Labor Induction Doesn’t Work?
Usually, labor induction might result in a successful delivery. But sometimes, inducing labor might not be helpful. So the next option that the doctor may recommend is a cesarean or c-section. A c-section is also suggested when the risks of vaginal delivery outweigh the benefits of a c-section.
Continue reading to know the risks related to labor induction for normal delivery.
What Could Be The Risks Of Labor Induction?
While not all labor-induced pregnancies are risky, some cases of labor induction could lead to:
- Postpartum hemorrhage: Prolonged labor or issues with labor induction method could result in heavy bleeding after delivery. There’s no need to worry as this happens rarely (6).
- Uterine rupture: Inducing labor using oxytocin and prostaglandins in a series of steps or not waiting for a certain time could cause uterine rupture (7).
- Decreased oxygen and blood supply to the baby: Frequent contractions or prolonged labor could decrease the oxygen and blood supply to the baby, putting it at risk. In rare cases, it may cause birth injuries (8).
- Others: Although rare, other risks could be infection to the mother or the baby and umbilical cord problems.
A healthy and active lifestyle during pregnancy can improve your chances of normal delivery, without the need to induce labor. Even if there is a need for labor induction, there is nothing to worry about. The procedures are safe, and labor usually begins after a few hours of the procedure. However, it is essential to discuss everything with your doctor and know the pros and cons of every method before you make a decision.
Do you have any experiences to share? Let us know your stories in the comment section below.
2. Inducing labor; Wake Forest Baptist Health
3. Integrative Approaches to Promoting Labor in Pregnancy; UW Integrative Medicine Department of Family Medicine (2013)
4. Recommendations for Augmentation of Labour; World Health Organization (2015)
5. Foley Catheter Cervical Ripening; St. Joeph Hoag Health
6. J. Morgan; Postpartum hemorrhage: How much bleeding after delivery is normal?; UT Southwestern Medical Center (2019)
7. I. Al-Zirqi et al.; Risk factors for complete uterine rupture; American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology (2017)
8. Are there risk factors with induced birth?; Birth Injury Guide