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Inducing Labor


The Ins and Outs of Induction

How you get induced depends on how "ripe" the cervix is. If your cervix shows no signs that it's ready for labor, your doctor may give you a drug containing prostaglandins (a key labor trigger), administered in a pill, cream, or gel. The administration of prostaglandins softens the cervix substantially. Often the drug works on its own to stimulate labor, but if it doesn't, you'll probably be given Pitocin to bring on contractions.

But many doctors will not do an elective induction using the prostaglandin preparation unless you've begun having irregular contractions or showing signs of softening. If your cervix is thin and soft (as opposed to hard, thick, and closed), the doctor can induce labor with Pitocin. Another option, if your cervix is ripe, is breaking the bag of waters to see if that triggers contractions. If it doesn't, Pitocin is usually administered. But no matter how an induction is started, there are risks that you should be aware of in advance.

Inducing Labor: A Risky Venture

Inducing birth doesn't always work. If your water breaks but your cervix fails to dilate despite receiving the drug containing prostaglandins, you'll probably need a c-section due to the risk of infection (which could harm the baby). And elective inductions generally have a higher c-section rate.

Many women who've been induced complain that childbirth hurts more than if labor is spontaneous. The likely cause for this is that induced labor begins suddenly and possibly quite forcefully. You'll launch right into regular contractions without the "building up" process experienced in the natural progression of labor.

Plus, in most settings, if Pitocin is administered, continuous electronic fetal monitoring is required. The drawback to having continuous monitoring is that it limits your mobility. You'll want to avoid it if you plan on walking or taking a warm shower while laboring.

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, a doctor or midwife should only induce a woman for nonmedical reasons if she is at least 39 weeks pregnant, the baby's head has dropped down into her pelvis, and her cervix has thinned out and is favorable for giving birth.

Inducing Labor: Considering a Deadline

For many women, other concerns outweigh the risks associated with induction. For instance, if you have to move to a new home within a strict timeframe, your spouse has unavoidable travel around the time of your delivery, you live in a remote area far from the hospital, and so forth, you may feel you have to ask your doctor about the possibility of induction.

Of course it's best to try to schedule things around your labor, and not the other way around. But in the event that's not possible, discuss your options carefully with your physician.


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