Medical Techniques to Induce Labor

Pregnancy can be a very enjoyable and exciting time for any couple, but it can also be very tough to have to wait nine months before you can see your little one. It can be even harder if your due date has come and gone with still no action. If your baby seems to be taking his own sweet time to make his entrance, you and your partner may be considering having labor induced.

Many couples choose to have their labor induced, especially if they are long past their due date or if they are experiencing any underlying pregnancy complications. So, if you are still waiting for baby to show up, speak with your healthcare provider about the possibility of having your labor induced.

What is Labor Induction?
Many pregnant women choose to have labor induced, particularly if they are past their due date or if they are suffering from additional pregnancy complications. There are numerous techniques used to induce labor, and these can be performed at your local health clinic or in hospital. Any mechanical or medicinal treatment that is used to artificially trigger labor is a type of labor induction. Labor induction appears to be becoming more and more popular. In fact, between 15% and 30% of pregnant women choose to have labor induced with one or more of their pregnancies.

Techniques Used to Induce Labor
Health care providers use a variety of methods to induce labor. Some techniques focus on preparing the cervix for labor, while others directly trigger labor contractions. Depending upon the dilation of your cervix, your health care provider may recommend one technique over the other, or you may receive a combination of techniques.

Dilating the Cervix
In order to progress into active labor, your cervix needs to thin out and dilate. Sometimes, this can be a very slow process, which is why there are techniques available to help this dilation along.

Prostaglandin Gels and Suppositories
If your cervix is not effacing quickly enough, your health care provider can help things along by applying a prostaglandin gel to the inside of your vagina. Prostaglandins are special hormones that help to stimulate contractions, thereby softening your cervix. Using a syringe, the prostaglandin gel is placed around your cervix. A prostaglandin suppository, much like a tampon, can also be inserted into your vagina, producing the same effect.

These gels are highly effective at preparing the cervix for labor, and sometimes even kick-start contractions. However, these gels have been associated with nausea, fever, diarrhea and occasionally, postpartum hemorrhaging.

Sweeping or Stripping of the Membranes
Your baby is contained inside of a sac of amniotic fluid in your uterus. A number of membranes attach this sac to the inside of the your uterus. In order to encourage dilation of your cervix, these membranes need to be separated from the lower part of your uterus. To do this, your health care provider will insert a finger into your cervix, and, using a rotating motion, "sweep" the membranes from the side of your uterus. This helps your body to release prostaglandins, which will encourage contractions and the dilation of your cervix.

Some women find that this is an uncomfortable procedure, however, it is typically performed at your local clinic, and you can go home afterwards and wait for the results. There are some risks associated with this procedure, including: infection, bleeding, and accidental rupture of the amniotic sac. However, these complications are quite rare.

Foley Catheter
A foley catheter is used by some health care professionals to help the cervix dilate. A thin, plastic catheter with a small balloon on one end is inserted into your cervix. Water is slowly pushed through the catheter, allowing the balloon to inflate. As the balloon inflates, pressure is exerted against your cervix, causing your body to release prostaglandins. These hormones then cause your cervix to dilate. Once your cervix has dilated enough, the balloon falls out and the catheter can be removed.

This is a fairly new technique used to dilate the cervix, and is associated with better and safer results. However, there is some evidence that the use of a foley catheter is linked with an increase in your risk of having a subsequent preterm birth.

Techniques to Trigger Contractions
If your cervix is partially dilated yet labor is not progressing, your health care provider may choose to try to trigger your contractions. There are two main methods used to trigger contractions.

Breaking The Waters
In order to induce contractions and labor, your health care provider may decide to break your waters. Your baby is contained in a sac filled with fluids. Known as the amniotic sac, this sac can be ruptured in order to force labor.

To do this, a thin, plastic hook is inserted into your cervix. This hook is then used to poke a hole in your amniotic sac, allowing your waters to rush out of your vagina. Many women find that this procedure is uncomfortable, however, it is very effective at triggering labor. This is because, once the amniotic sac has ruptured, your body releases prostaglandins and oxytocin, hormones that help to trigger labor.

There are some risks associated with this technique, though. If too much time elapses between the procedure and labor, there is a possibility of infection. The technique can also increase your risk of experiencing intense contractions during labor.

Oxytocin
Oxytocin is a hormone that is naturally produced by your body during labor. It helps to stimulate contractions and allows labor to progress. However, this hormone is also available in synthetic form and can be administered by your health care provider thereby inducing labor. It is given intravenously and the amount is adjusted every 15 to 30 minutes, in order to maintain the proper pace of labor. Oxytocin is often used in combination with a prostaglandin gel in order to induce labor.

This IV medication is associated with some risks, though, especially strong labor contractions. If your labor contractions become too strong, they can deprive your baby of oxygen, causing fetal distress. However, your health care provider will continuously monitor you and your baby for any complications if you are receiving oxytocin.

Who Shouldn�t Have Labor Induced?
Labor induction is not recommended for all expectant moms. Sometimes labor induction can cause health complications for either you or your baby. Typically, labor induction is not performed if you are suffering from:

 

 

Additionally, labor is typically not induced if you are expecting triplets or higher order multiples, have had two or more cesarean sections, or if you have had previous uterine surgery.

Recommended Link
Was your labor induced or are you considerng inducing labor when the time comes? Visit Pregnancy Stories to share your reasons for choosing to induce labor and help other women learn more about all their options when giving birth.

 

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merideth
i am already 9 days past my due date and am really worried my doctor is going to induce me. he said we can wait another 2 days but if nothing happens then he wants to induce the labor because leaving the baby in this long increases the chance of still birth. i can barely sleep. i am so nervous. i just with my body would go into labor naturally. i didn't want any medical intervention. does anyone know any natural ways to get this labor underway?
3 years ago
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