All The Facts On Inducing Labor Or Labor Induction, Including What Is Involved And Risk Factors To Consider.

If you’re heading towards the end of the last trimester chances are you’ve thought “I am so tired of being pregnant” at least once. Inducing labor may sound appealing for a few reasons – your healthcare provider’s on-call schedule, your (or your partner’s) work responsibilities, family commitments or even just wanting to finally meet your baby. Here are answers to some common questions about induction so you can make an informed choice about this increasingly common intervention.
Ami Burns

Induction means starting labor artificially. This can be done by placing artificial prostaglandins near the cervix to help ripen (soften) it or by using Pitocin, a synthetic form of oxytocin, the hormone naturally released in the body that causes contractions. Pitocin is also sometimes used to augment (speed up) labor once it’s begun.  Today, 1 in 5 labors will be induced – this rate has doubled since 1990.

Why is induction suggested?
The jury’s still out on whether or not inductions are suggested for convenience or medical reasons. Moms may want to induce labor for convenience. Perhaps her partner travels or her favorite doctor or midwife is only on-call certain days of the week. Think long and hard, weigh the benefits and risks of non-medical induction before making a decision. Remember that induction doesn’t always mean labor will happen more quickly than if it occurs naturally.

It’s important to understand the potential benefits and risks of inducing labor, talk with your maternity care provider and make an informed decision.

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), Medical reasons for induction – if it may be safer for your baby to be born rather than stay inside the uterus -- may include:

  • Your water has broken and labor has not begun
  • Your pregnancy is post term (more than 42 weeks)
  • you have high blood pressure caused by your pregnancy
  • you have health problems such as diabetes that could affect your baby
  • you have an infection in the uterus
  • your baby is growing too slowly

Factors to consider
Research provided by The Lamaze Institute for Normal Birth finds that when moms with healthy, normal pregnancies are induced they increase the chance of:

  • Vacuum or forceps-assisted vaginal birth
  • Cesarean surgery
  • Problems during labor such as fever, fetal heart rate changes, and shoulder dystocia
  • Babies born with low birth weight
  • Admission to the NICU
  • Jaundice that requires treatment
  • Increased length of hospital stay.

What about big babies?
ACOG also states that a suspected large baby (over 9 pounds) is not a reason to induce. Ultrasounds can be off by a pound (either way) and the only way to know the size of your baby is to weigh her after she’s born.

Induction can lead to pre-term birth
Babies born before 37 weeks gestation are considered premature. According to the March of Dimes, choosing to be induced for a non-medical reason may increase your chances of having a late pre-term baby – born between 34-36 weeks. Many moms are unsure of the exact date they conceived and due dates are really just a good estimate. Pre-term babies are more likely to have problems with breathing, feeding, maintaining body temperature and jaundice.

Spontaneous labor
Between 38-42 weeks of pregnancy, most women will go into spontaneous labor. Be sure to talk to your healthcare provider about the benefits, risks and alternatives to induction. Remember that if you are healthy and your baby is healthy, it’s very likely that time is on your side and you’ll go into labor on your own.

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