Shorter Labor Is Now Possible. Here’s How

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An easy labor. If you are pregnant, it sure must sound like music to your ears. While you cannot tell how easy it can be for one, reducing the labor time is pretty much in your hands now. Yes, you read it right. It’s time to put the fear of labor behind you because there is some good news for moms-to-be.

As per a new study by the University of Pennsylvania, it’s now possible to combine treatments to induce labor that can also reduce the labor time. The new combination method is estimated to save approximately 100,000 days of labor each year in the US alone!

An estimated one-fourth of mothers or nearly one million women in the US are induced for labor every year. This is especially in cases where women have gone past their due date or suffer from conditions like preeclampsia or gestational diabetes.

If you wondered how much the labor could be shortened by, it could be more than four hours by combining the two known labor induction treatments. It means not only less stress on the mother but also less healthcare expenditure and time spent in the labor room.

The two labor induction treatments involve the use of the drug misoprostol and Foley catheter. Scientists at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania conducted one of the largest clinical trials of labor induction methods involving about 500 mothers-to-be, who required labor induction. The women were assigned one of the four combinations of labor-inducing treatments:

  1. A prostaglandin-like drug misoprostol, which is approved by the FDA for use in inducing abortion or labor.
  1. A balloon catheter known as Foley catheter or Foley bulb induction.
  1. The concurrent application of misoprostol and Foley catheter technique.
  1. The application of Foley catheter with a synthetic form of contraction-inducing oxytocin hormone.

The Foley catheter is inserted into vagina to cause the cervix open and speed up the delivery process.

Researchers figured out that the combination of misoprostol and the Foley catheter helped reduce labor time by at least an hour when compared to the other three methods. The average labor time using this combination was 13.1 hours while the labor time using misoprostol alone was 17.6 hours and the Foley method alone was 17.7 hours. A combination of Foley catheter method with oxytocin resulted in labor time of 14.5 hours.

Dr. Lisa Levine, who led the study, says: “Our results clearly show that the misoprostol-Foley combination method could significantly reduce the total time mothers spend in the delivery room – potentially leading to a reduction in labor-associated healthcare costs and risks to mothers and their babies.“

She adds that it would alleviate risks to mother and child that come with prolonged labor, and also lessen the strain on mothers. However, she does not suggest any difference between the results of the study with C-section delivery rates or complications.

However, you must be aware that using the Foley catheter technique is extremely painful for a cervix that is still not ready for the birthing process.

Whether a woman would want to go through that pain to reduce her labor is purely up to her. Also, would she want to go ahead with the application even if she could wait for a spontaneous start to labor when there is no medical condition necessitating an induction?

So, while the study sounds great when it comes to faster labor, there are associated issues you might want to talk to your doctor about.

Further studies involving the application of one of these methods independently in a large population would provide a detailed comparison of outcomes in mother and child.