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What Is Induced Labour? Why Is It Needed?

December 3, 2020

A normal delivery is one where the pregnant woman goes into the labor process naturally, and the baby is born through the vaginal passage with minimal or no medical intervention. Sometimes, though, labor is induced, which means starting the birth process artificially through medical intervention.

While it is true that doctors induce labor in case they suspect any medical complications during delivery, there are instances where patients too can choose elective induction. This is when labor is induced without medical reasons or as an emergency procedure.

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An increasing number of people opt for elective induction, usually to accommodate the baby’s arrival to suit their busy schedules or have the baby’s birth fall on a particular date. However, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists recommends that labor be induced only when it is more risky for the baby to remain inside the mother’s uterus, than to be born.

Reasons For Inducing Labor

There are many medical reasons when doctors might choose to induce labor. These include:

  • If there are health complications such as hypertension, preeclampsia, heart disease or bleeding during pregnancy.
  • If the baby is in danger of not getting enough nutrients and oxygen from the placenta.
  • If the amniotic sac has ruptured but labor hasn’t started within 24 to 48 hours.
  • If the pregnancy is prolonged beyond 42 weeks with possible risk to the baby from a gradual decrease in the supply of nutrients from the placenta.
  • If you suffer from gestational diabetes and the baby is showing normal growth, it is still preferred if you go for induction post thirty eight weeks of pregnancy.
  • If there is an infection inside the uterus, known as chorioamnionitis.

How Is Labor Induced?

A bag of Syntosin drug used for inducing labor hanging on a stand[/caption]During your interactions with your doctor, you might have talked about the delivery process – which could include natural or induced labor. Doctors use various ways to induce labor. Some of them include:

1. Medications:

  • Prostaglandin:

Here suppositories are inserted into the vagina during the evening. This causes the uterus to go into labour by morning. One advantage of this method is that the mother can freely move around the labor room and feels more at ease.

A minute disadvantage is that administration of vaginal prostaglandins might lead to over/ hyper stimulation of the uterus thereby reducing oxygen supply to the baby. This is when you are administered with medications for slowing the contractions down.

  • Oxytocin:

A woman’s body naturally produces the oxytocin hormone to stimulate contractions. Oxytocin medications are given intravenously at low doses to stimulate contractions.

Oxytocin can initiate labour that might not start on its own and can speed up the pace of labor. However, there is also a chance that labor can progress too quickly, causing contractions to become difficult to manage without pain medication. The doctor may choose to discontinue oxytocin if the contractions become too powerful and come close together.

2. Artificial Rupture Of The Membranes

It is possible to induce labor, or artificially stimulate childbirth, using various methods. One such technique is Artificial Rupture Of Membranes or AROM. When the bag of water within the uterus, called the amniotic sac, breaks or ruptures, the body increases the production of the prostaglandin hormone to speed up contractions. However, in certain cases, doctors might suggest rupturing the amniotic membrane artificially and induce labor.

During AROM, a thin and sterile plastic hook is brushed against the membranes just inside the cervix causing the baby’s head to move down against the cervix. This usually causes contractions to become stronger and releases a gush of warm amniotic fluid from the vagina.

AROM also has its set of advantages. These include:

  • Shortening of labour process by an hour
  • The procedure also allows the doctor to examine the amniotic fluid for the presence of meconium (the stool your baby passes in the uterus), which may be a sign of foetal distress.
  • The foetal heart rate can also be monitored due to direct access to the baby’s scalp.

AROM also has its set of disadvantages. These include:

  • The baby may turn to a breech position. This makes birth more difficult, especially if the membranes rupture before the baby’s head is engaged.
  • It is possible for the umbilical cord to slip out first leading to prolapsed cord.
  • Infection can occur if there is too much time between rupture and birth.

3. Natural Way Of Inducing Labor – Nipple Stimulation

There is another natural way to induce labor, which is by nipple stimulation. It can be done manually or with an electric breastfeeding pump. Stimulation of the nipple releases the oxytocin hormone, which causes contractions. The concept is the same as when a baby nurses right after birth, stimulating contractions, which slows bleeding.

Things To Bear In Mind In Induced Labor

You might choose to have elective induction because of certain reasons then it is advisable to discuss this with your doctor well in advance. In fact, even if you do not plan to have elective induction, you can talk about inducing labor and things you need to be prepared for.

  • For instance, you can continue doing breathing exercises and push at your own pace if you prefer to avoid pain medications throughout the delivery.
  • If you would need any pain relief, you can request for an epidural anaesthetic or some other medication.

Risks Of Induction

  • If induction doesn’t work, it poses a higher risk for C-section
  • Induction might cause heavy contractions leading to pain and you might have to resort to epidural or other pain killers.
  • You might have a longer stay in the hospital post-delivery if induced.
  • The breakage of amniotic sac during induction might cause infection if the baby is not delivered in twenty four to forty eight hours’ time.
  • If induced for an early birth, the baby might have breathing issues and face developmental problems later.
  • Intense contractions during induction might lead to the detachment of placenta from the uterus wall called placental abruption. This situation wouldn’t be safe for women who have had uterus surgeries before.
  • Women who have undergone a C-section before might have uterine rupture due to induction.

Being well informed always helps, especially when you are welcoming your baby into the world. So do not hesitate to clarify any doubt with your doctor.

Must read- What To Expect In Abdominal Pain During Pregnancy?

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