Labor Induction – What Are The Risks Associated With It?
Many women will reach a time in pregnancy when they feel, it’s enough! Enough of tiredness, discomfort, enough of being pregnant and enough wait to meet the tiny little one whom they have been nurturing for the last nine months. Sometimes, certain medical conditions force the medical team to induce labor and deliver the child as soon as possible. This is where labor induction comes into the picture.
When you are at the end stage of your pregnancy, your doctor and the nurses would be continuously monitoring you until you deliver the child safely. Sometimes for the wellbeing of both the mother and the baby, the doctor might want to speed up the labor process. This is known as inducing labor.
Instead of waiting for the labor to start on its own, the doctor or midwife would use various medical procedures to start the labor. Here point to be noted is that labor augmentation is different from labor induction. Labor augmentation means intervention to increase the intensity of labor, usually when the doctor sees that the labor is not progressing or slowed down.
When doctors opt for labor augmentation, the labor has already started but not moving further. This is not the case in labor induction in which doctors have to deliberately start the labor process due to various reasons.
Often in some cases, induction can be a perfect choice. Mostly, experts suggest that the best way is to wait and let the labor start on its own and progress further naturally. And until there is no clear medical reason, labor shouldn’t be induced.
Why women opt for inducing labor?
Labor induction has become very common, especially in the urban areas where many women choose this option for their convenience. Sometimes elective induction might be appropriate in situations where you live far from hospital or birthing center or you have a history of rapid deliveries. But overall experts believe that choosing elective induction for no solid reasons is a bad idea.
Most doctors in India will prefer not to wait for longer than 40 weeks to induce labor. But in some other countries, wait until completion of 41 weeks is normal.
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Why doctor choose for inducing labor?
The medical team will be evaluating several factors before choosing labor induction. Here are some of the reasons.
- You have crossed the due date (1 or two weeks) and labor hasn’t started
- Water has broken (premature rupture) but labor hasn’t started
- Infection in the uterus
- Not enough amniotic fluid
- High blood pressure or preeclampsia
- Gestational diabetes
- Placental abruption
- Problems with the baby
- Kidney disease
How labor induction works?
There are various methods through which your doctor and nurse can induce labor. These are:
- Stripping the membranes – This procedure can be a little uncomfortable. The doctor or nurse will be using a gloved finger in order to gently separate the amniotic sac from the uterine wall. As a result, hormones will be released that would trigger contractions. Some women might be advised to go home and wait for contractions.
- Giving hormones – When your doctor sees that your cervix is not favorable, she would give you prostaglandins hormone. It will open the cervix and at the same time trigger contractions. Women with the history of c-section will not be given this hormone as it can rupture the uterus.
- Balloon catheter – A thin flexible tube known as catheter will be inserted through your vagina into the cervical opening. The catheter containing a balloon at the end will then be inflated causing your cervix to expand.
- Medications – Syntocinon is an artificial version of your body’s natural hormone called oxytocin. This will be administered intravenously. Initially, the doctor would start with a low dose and gradually increase it until the contractions are strong enough for the baby to be born.
After induction, many women will go into labor within a few hours while some may take 1 or 2 days. If none of the above-mentioned methods works, then most likely the doctor would perform a cesarean delivery, especially in case of ruptured amniotic membranes.
Risks of Inducing Labor
Typically, labor induction is safe but there are some risks that need to be mentioned:
- There is a higher risk of c-section when labor is induced. The doctor might switch to c-section if induction does not work. It occurs in about 25 percent of cases.
- Longer hospital stay, especially if the child is delivered via c-section.
- Abnormal contractions due to use of oxytocin or prostaglandin. This may also hinder oxygen supply and lower baby’s heart rate.
- Increased chances of uterine atony (inability of uterine muscles to contract) after birth. This can lead to heavy bleeding after delivery.
- Risk of infection due to premature rupture of membranes (PROM) if delivery doesn’t occur within a day or two.
- Complications during the delivery, especially with certain medications as they might not be safe for women with previous c-section or uterine surgery. Both these conditions can happen but are uncommon.
- Women with the history of c-section or some uterine surgery are at the risk of placenta displacement.
- Health problems in baby due to prematurity.
Labor induction is also not a good idea for:
- Women with history of c-section delivery
- Women diagnosed with placenta previa
- Breech position
- Umbilical cord prolapse
Natural or self-induction
There are some natural ways through which you can induce labor. Again, these methods lack scientific evidence. So talk to your doctor before trying these techniques.
- Sexual intercourse
- Consuming small amount of castor oil (arandi) or rubbing it on skin
- Nipple stimulation
In most of the cases, labor induction results in successful vaginal delivery. So if your doc or nurse recommends you induction, you are free to ask questions. After all, you want to be absolutely sure that it is the best decision for the well-being of you and your baby.