Inducing labor during childbirth; Why, When and How labor induction is administered.

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Inducing labor is a common practice during childbirth. Usually, excitement mounts when any expecting mom nears her expected due date. When the estimated date of delivery passes, anxiety sets in as well.

There are different psychological and medical reasons, why labor induction becomes an important option. In this section of PregnancyMama, you will find answers to many of your questions about labor induction, including what, why, when and how labor induction is administered.

What is labor induction all about?

Inducing labor is basically a technique through which the cervix is ripen, effaced and dilated to the extent that contractions are sufficiently provoked to initiate childbirth labor, when it does not occur naturally.

Why and when does the doctor consider labor induction?

Inducing labor might be considered necessary in order to avoid any potential threat to either the pregnant mom or her baby in the following circumstances;

  •  When there is a premature rupture of the membranes or the bag of water surrounding the baby in the womb is broken and labor does not start naturally within 24 hours. In which case the baby is potentially exposed to risks of infection.
  • When expected due date is exceeded by two weeks and the pregnancy becomes post-term or overdue then inducing labor is suggested by most doctors, especially considering the fact that the bigger the baby gets, the more difficult the chances of vaginal delivery and the greater possible health risks.
  • When there are more benefits of inducing labor for the mom or her baby than continuing the pregnancy, in such cases of expecting moms having any medical risk factors like high blood pressure, hypertension, high risk gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, even chorioamnionitis, a typical infection in the uterus.
  • When the fetus suffers intrauterine growth restriction; developing below the normal gestational age, cases of decreased amniotic fluid for the baby to continue to thrive, and other high risk fetal complications. 

How is labor induction administered?

In order to initiate labor, your doctor will decide the most appropriate option in your case, considering the health status of both you and your baby.

It is important you ask your doctor any questions you have about the safety of inducing labor. The reason for your involvement is because labor induction may pose certain risks you have to be aware of, and the method of labor induction may vary from woman to woman.

Different Methods of Labor Induction

One popular method of inducing labor is by separating the membrane that lines the amniotic sac and the endometrial wall of the uterus with a finger. This is done by a professional, using hand glove, which puts a finger inside the vagina all the way into the cervix, and then strips the membrane by moving the finger up and down.

This action helps provoke the release of prostaglandin, which in turn triggers cervical contractions during labor process. This method is usually used where cervix is already ripe.

Labor can be induced by another similar method, which involves breaking the sac of water artificially by a small plastic hook during an internal examination. After some hours of amniotic sac rupture, labor usually begins. If, however, this method of induction fails, another follow-up method would be required to avoid further complications.

Since the method of labor induction is a function of the condition of the cervix. In case of unripe cervix, labor can be induced by administration of prostaglandin to ripen, thin-out and dilate the cervix.

Prostaglandin is a kind of substance, injected in the form of vaginal gel or tablet, which aids the ripening of the cervix and eventually triggers uterine contractions.

Apart from the various medications for ripening the cervix, some doctors use alternative means such as inflated Foley balloon, calibrated dilators or what is called Laminaria japonicum for stretching the cervix to open up or ripen.

Sometimes prostaglandin administration is sufficient to induce labor but if not, it may be followed up with oxytocin intravenous injection, in a controlled dosage rate until optimum contractions is attained.

Oxytocin is a synthetic form of the hormone your body produces and releases during pregnancy and labor respectively. It comes in the form of a drug name, Pitocin. Oxytocin’s usage is not only limited to induction, it is also administered to help enhance labor contractions that already began naturally.

The good news is that your healthcare provider will continuously monitor both you and your baby throughout the entire process of labor induction to ensure nothing gets out of hands.

Labor induction; what are the possible risks?

Some women in the last days of their third trimester become tired of being pregnant and want to try some natural options for inducing labor like cervical massage with castor oil, among others. It’s advised you desist from such misguided induction for the simple reason that it is unsafe and may get out of hands.

The most terrible risk of labor induction is a scenario where labor induction attempts failed over a long period of time, and the situation necessitates C-section delivery. When the cervix doesn’t ripen enough for a successful vaginal delivery and all efforts of labor induction prove abortive, cesarean section becomes inevitable.

Another potential risk of labor induction is to result into a pre-term delivery ( baby born when pregnancy is between 34th and 36th week). How is this possible you might ask? When the expected date of delivery (EDD) is calculated incorrectly for any reason and such pregnancy is subjected to labor induction, the baby may be delivered preterm.

In order to avoid such risk, clinical pregnancy confirmation and early first trimester ultrasound is advised to prevent inaccuracy in due date calculation.

Importantly, discuss with your doctor on anticipated benefits and potential risks that may be involved in your case, if you want to have labor induced for your childbirth. However, your healthcare provider is in the best position to advise what is best for you and your baby, don’t question his or her advice on inducing labor.

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