Labor inductions are much more common nowadays than they used to be.  Today approximately 1 in 5 births are induced, about double what it was just 20 years ago.  While most labor inductions are medically necessary and increasing number are done electively.  So what is labor induction?

Labor inductions are done when your body does not naturally go into labor so your doctor decides to artificially start your labor.  Sometimes medication like Pitocin is used to fool your body into thinking it is in labor so contractions will begin and your cervix will begin to dilate, other times your doctor will use techniques such as stripping the membranes or rupturing your membranes to trigger labor to start.

There are many reasons that your doctor and you may decide that inducing your labor is necessary, they include:

  • When a pregnancy has lasted more than 42 weeks and labor has not started naturally on its own.  The placenta usually stops functions after 42 weeks so it is no longer safe for the pregnancy to continue.
  • Your pregnancy has resulted in high blood pressure and your blood pressure is getting too high and the doctor feels continuing the pregnancy is no longer safe for you or the baby.
  • You have an infection in your uterus.
  • Your water has broken but contractions have not begun.
  • There is a growth problem with the baby.
  • You have a pregnancy complication such as gestational diabetes.
  • There is some other risk to the mother or the baby if the pregnancy is continued.

Most labor inductions go smoothly and the baby is delivered complication free through a normal vaginal delivery.  However, with induced labor there is an increased risk of a prolonged, difficult labor that can lead to complications and the need for a caesarean delivery.  Your risk is highest if this is your first baby and you are not full term yet.

Inducing labor is not without its risks and should be considered only if medically necessary.  There are sometimes stories out there about women who request that their labor be induced if they have not delivered by a certain date because of other events they do not want to miss or interrupt.  Babies will come on their own time and if there is no medically necessary need for your labor to be induced it is always safer and better to let your body start labor naturally on its own when your baby is ready to be born.

The rise in induced labors is a contributing factor in the continuing rise in c-sections.  C-sections account for nearly 30% of all births here in the United States.   Induced labors are also contributing to the rise of late pre-term births, babies born between 34-36 weeks.  Though these babies are often born healthy there is the risk for breathing problems, added breastfeeding difficulty, digestive issues and more when a baby is born pre-term.

If your doctor is recommending a labor induction be sure to get all facts including why it is necessary, what you can expect, and what you should do before the induction to be prepared.

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