The Induction: Making an Informed Decision

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Hey all!  I’ve got another birth post for you today!  Being pregnant means I’ve obviously often got babies on the brain and since birth is the culmination (and finale!) of 9 months of growing a sweet baby, it’s probably what I think about the most often.

Today I want to talk inductions: the what, the why and the how!  Just like all the other birth interventions I’ve previously written about, inducing labor comes with benefits as well as some risks.   Hopefully this helps you, or someone you know, be as prepared as possible to choose (or refuse) an induction.

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To begin, let’s start with the basics:

WHAT is an induction?  The terms “induce labor” or “induction” refer to any action that is intended to stimulate the uterus of a pregnant woman into beginning active labor.    The process of inducing labor has been used for many years, and the methods are extremely varied.  They range from the very invasive (such as breaking the amniotic sac or giving medications) to the very natural (like having sex or taking homeopathic supplements).

WHY induce?  The most important reason a doctor or midwife might suggest inducing labor is when continuing the pregnancy could be dangerous to the health or life of the mother or baby.  An induction also might be considered if baby is deemed larger than normal, if there are problems with the placenta, if the pregnancy has continued longer than 40-41 weeks or any number of other reasons.  The deciding factor is, of course, if the potential risks associated with remaining pregnant outweigh the risks of performing an induction.

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HOW does induction work?  As mentioned above, there are a wide array of options for inducing labor.  Some of the natural options your provider might suggest include exercise, nipple stimulation, eating spicy foods (never worked for me, sadly!), having sex, taking evening primrose oil or even castor oil (while this last option DID work for me with one baby, it often results in some rather unpleasant side effects and should only be taken under the supervision of your medical provider).

If your doctor or midwife decides that a more invasive course of action is needed, the first step might be to try stripping your membranes in the office.   If you decide to go to the hospital to be induced, chances are good that the procedure will involve administering Pitocin or prostaglandins and possibly also breaking your water.  And while there are potential side effects to all methods of induction, here’s where things can get tricky.   Once you’re admitted to the hospital, and especially once your water has broken, you’re essentially on a bit of a time clock.  Sometimes these methods are very helpful for getting labor started and sometimes, no matter what is done to you, labor won’t start on this time clock.  This is why inductions can sometimes end in a c-section if things don’t go as planned.  This potential outcome should be explained to you by your provider and, since an induction is a medical intervention, the risks should always be weighed carefully.

 

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If you’re facing a potential induction and don’t know if it’s the best option for you and your baby, here are a few questions you can ask yourself and your medical provider(s):

  1.  Why are we considering induction?  Reasons like a potentially large baby, previous C-section, convenience or pregnancy lasting more than 40 weeks are common reasons  for providers to begin talking about inductions, but they’re also not hard and fast reasons to induce.  In these situations, the complications could cause more problems than simply allowing labor to begin on its own.
  2. What type of induction are we considering?  Is there a more natural option (or options) that we can try first?
  3. What happens if we wait a few days?  What about waiting a week or more?
  4. What are my risks if this induction doesn’t work?  Will you send me home and allow labor to being naturally or default to a C-section?

In the end, it’s often best to allow labor to begin on its own: the baby’s body sends specific signals to the mother’s body telling it when to start labor.   One big downside to inductions is that there’s really no way of knowing if baby is completely ready to be born, and even though being 9 months pregnant is uncomfortable (I hear ya, sister!) it’s often better to stick it out a few days than run the risk of delivering a pre-term baby with underdeveloped lungs or other complications.

That being said, if it becomes medically necessary to get baby out fast, inductions can be a great alternative to a c-section.  They can allow mom to deliver safely and vaginally, under the care of a qualified medical team.

I hope this post helps you feel better prepared to welcome your perfect little baby into the world!  If you have any questions or want to hear more about my experiences with inductions, feel free to email me anytime!  whiskem {at} gmail {dot} com.

 

Note, this post is not meant as a substitute for medical advice.  Please consult with a qualified midwife or obstetrician in regards to your prenatal and birth care.

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