Labor and childbirth is an unpredictable process. Modern day medicine, however, is prepared to handle unexpected situations during childbirth. One such common alternative for the natural onset of labor is inducing labor through medicines or manual methods. Read further to know when to go for labor induction and the various labor-inducing methods.
Last Updated: 22 October 2020
As you near your due date, you might be rehearsing the sequence of events that would happen during labor and birth. While it is natural to expect a normal course of events, you must also be aware that there could be a possible situation where labor doesn’t start on its own. Sometimes, an artificial procedure, called the labor induction to start labor might be necessary.
Labor induction is the manual intervention to induce labor in preparation for childbirth. Approximately, one in five pregnancies requires inducing labor.
Under what circumstances will labor be induced?
The common reasons for inducing labor are:
· If you are two weeks past your due date and labor contractions haven’t begun, there is an increased risk for placenta to deteriorate in its function to supply oxygen and nutrients to the baby. Inducing labor is the common step of action in such case.
· If you have a premature water break and labor doesn’t begin, there is a risk of contracting infections. Inducing labor can gear up the process without allowing much time for any unwanted entry into the womb.
· Pregnancy complications such as gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, uterine infection, high blood pressure or low amniotic fluid may require labor induction if natural labor doesn’t occur by the expected date.
How is labor induced?
Labor can be induced by a manual method called membrane sweep, using drugs or by natural methods.
Inducing labor through membrane sweep is usually carried out during a regular antenatal appointment. A doctor or a midwife will insert a finger through the vagina, into the opening of the cervix and make a firm but gentle circular, sweeping movement with the finger. This would separate the membranes of the amniotic sac which is pressed against the cervix.
The separation of the amniotic sac membranes from the cervix causes the release of hormones called the prostaglandins, which play an important role in stimulating contractions. Cervix begins to soften and ripen which will further help in the kick-starting of labor. Most likely, within 24 to 48 hours after membrane sweep is done, labor begins.
Labor induction using medicines · Prostaglandins
If you are past your due date or need a labor induction for other reasons, your doctor will check for the dilation and effacement of your cervix. If your cervix isn’t dilated or ripened, prostaglandins will be administered through the vagina. This will induce cervical ripening and labor contractions.
· Oxytocin (Pitocin)
If your body does not respond to prostaglandins or if your cervix is already dilated and thinned-out, Pitocin (a drug that contains oxytocin) will be administered intravenously to induce labor. Oxytocin is a hormone produced in your body for natural labor contractions to begin. Low levels of oxytocin injection is enough to stimulate your uterus to contract.
Artificial Rupture of Membranes (AROM)
If contractions have started but labor doesn’t progress, your doctor may perform Artificial Rupture of Membranes, abbreviated as AROM. AROM is the manual breaking of the amniotic sac using a small instrument to let the amniotic fluid leak away. This process can speed up the labor process. AROM is not painful and is usually carried out once the cervix is ripened enough and is accompanied by oxytocin administration.
What can you do to bring on labor?
No medical technique has been declared for pregnant moms to try on themselves to kick-start labor. However, here are a few known ideas we have from around the world (which doesn’t vouch for safety or effectiveness) which you can discuss with your midwife or doctor:
It is believed that having an orgasm can be a forerunner of contractions to begin. Also, prostaglandins present in semen are found to induce labor though there aren’t detailed studies on the two. If it doesn’t hurt or put you down, you can try it one last time before you become a family.
Gently rubbing the nipples in a circular motion is known to release oxytocin, the hormone that can induce labor. However, proper studies have not proven it though. Be aware that over-stimulation can have the risk of adverse effects.
Long walk or climbing staircase
A long, leisurely walk at full-term is said to set your uterus go into contractions as is gently climbing a staircase.
Is inducing labor safe?
In general, inducing labor has proved safe for several pregnant moms. However, labor induction is not devoid of risks. The common disadvantages of inducing labor are:
· Labor induction can result in sudden increase in labor contractions instead of the gradual increase as in the case of natural onset of labor. Contractions which are too close together and intense can be more painful. This can sometimes lead to higher heart rate in the baby. Close monitoring of the baby’s heart rate is crucial throughout labor and childbirth when labor is induced.
· Labor induction has been known to be linked to increased number of C-sections though there are no well-researched studies on it.