While we all expect our pregnancies to culminate in a natural, stress-free birth experience, it doesn’t always work out that way. Some of us may need to be induced hormonally to go into labour, or to prevent complications from waiting too long. Many women, tired of being pregnant for past their due date, wonder if there are ways to induce labour naturally or at home, which is not advisable. If your labour is induced as a medical or emergency decision, you have a right to know why. Here’s what you need to know about induced labour.
What is induction of labour?
At the time of delivery, the hormone oxytocin is naturally released in the body, and this sign of labour signals that the baby is coming! From assisting the birth canal to widen to causing contractions that push the baby out, the process is fully regulated by hormones. But sometimes, the oxytocin production or response to the hormone is not sufficient. Then labour is “induced” with hormonal injections.
How is labour induced?
Prostaglandin suppositories are introduced into the vagina, or oxytocin is injected intravenously to stimulate labour. Artificial Rupture of Membranes (AROM) is another, physical method of inducing labour. The doctors choose an appropriate plan based on each unique case.
Nipple stimulation is a way of inducing labour naturally. After birth, breastfeeding produces oxytocin, which helps stop bleeding faster. Likewise, the same logic is used to stimulate the nipples and help release oxytocin, causing powerful contractions.
Are there any risks to inducing labour?
Induction of labour is sometimes used as a way to shorten delivery time to suit either the patient’s or the medical team’s convenience. Therefore, you should always clarify with your doctor on why, and whether, induction is required.
There are quite a few disadvantages to inducing labour artificially. For one, hormonal induction is standardized, and thus works differently for different women. For example, oxytocin injections can cause contractions to be severe enough to warrant pain medication. In physical induction, there is the risk of infection, or the umbilical cord coming out before the baby. Sometimes, the baby may also turn into breech position due to this intervention.
Are there any long-term risks of induced labour?
Due to contractions that become extremely severe, it can be hard to manage labour, leading to an epidural that the mother may not have opted for to begin with. The experience can quickly become traumatic.
When labour progresses naturally, the body produces endorphins in response to increasing pain and contractions. These endorphins help cope with long labour and keep us relatively happy even when in pain. By using synthetic oxytocin, the process of endorphin release is interrupted. It may not seem like much, but it can reduce the mother’s ability to tolerate pain.
Infants who are born before term are more at risk for developing jaundice and have issues regulating their body temperature. While some women do have babies born before completing term, this is not the ideal case to be achieved through artificial means.
Is induced labor all bad news?
As with any intervention, there are times when inducing labour is necessary and outweighs the risk of not doing so. When fetal distress is detected, it is ideal to deliver the baby than to wait for nature to take its course. In most other circumstances, waiting is the name of the game.
- Inducing Labor, American Pregnancy Association.
- Lothian, Judith A. “Saying “no” to induction.” The Journal of perinatal education15, no. 2 (2006): 43.