Childbirth is not always a textbook process, and doctors will sometimes need to give nature a little push by taking measures to trigger contractions and speed up labor to ensure the safe delivery of the baby and safeguard the mother’s health when the need arises. If you’re wondering whether you should discuss inducing labor with your doctor, it might be a good idea to learn about the process, the reasons behind it and the risks involved first.
Reasons for Induced Labor
Your doctor might recommend inducing labor if:
• You are 1-2 weeks past your due date. A prolonged pregnancy might put you and your baby at greater risk, as the placenta might become inefficient in delivering important nutrients to your baby, or your baby may grow to become too big, which might increase the risk of injury during a vaginal delivery.
• You don’t go into labor 24 hours after your water breaks. If this happens, your doctor might opt for inducing labor to avoid the development of an infection in your uterus, which becomes more of a risk once the membranes are ruptured.
• You develop complications or have a chronic illness. This can include conditions such as preeclampsia, which is a serious condition that restricts the flow of blood to the baby, or there’s an infection in your uterus. Chronic illnesses such as high blood pressure or kidney disease can also threaten the health of your baby.
• Your baby is at risk. Instances when this can happen include if the baby has stopped growing at the expected pace, there isn’t enough amniotic fluid surrounding it, or if the placenta has begun to deteriorate.
When Labor Induction Isn’t Appropriate?
As a rule of thumb, your doctor will choose to carry out a C-section rather than induce labor when a vaginal delivery is unsafe either for you or for your baby. This is usually the case when:
• Your baby is in breech or traverse position and will not come out head first.
• The umbilical cord is positioned in front of your baby’s head and might be compressed as your baby’s head enters the birth canal, decreasing its oxygen supply.
• Your baby needs to be delivered immediately or cannot tolerate contractions.
• You have had several C-sections already, or have had a uterine surgery with a vertical uterine incision.
• You’re having multiple babies and the first baby is in traverse position.
• You’re suffering from a genital herpes infection.
• You have a placenta previa, which is when the placenta is lying very low in your uterus and is covering the cervix.
Risks Associated with Labor Induction
Though generally safe, labor induction does have a few associated risks that vary based on the method of inducing labor and each individual case. Normally, your doctor will only recommend inducing labor when he/she believes that doing so would involve less risk than waiting for the labor to begin naturally. Some of the risks associated with inducing labor are:
• Stress to the Baby: Using Pitocin or administering prostaglandins can sometimes hyperstimulate the uterus, resulting in prolonged, very frequent, or abnormally strong contractions that can stress the baby.
• Premature Birth: If the induction is performed too early, it can result in premature birth which can expose the baby to certain risks such as difficulty breathing and jaundice, among other things.
• Low Heart Rate: Certain types of medication used to induce labor, such as oxytocin, can trigger too many contractions, which diminish the baby’s oxygen supply and result in a lower heart rate.
• Uterine Rupture: One serious complication that can occur during a vaginal birth after a cesarean is the tearing or rupturing of the uterus, which calls for an emergency C-section to prevent the development of life-threatening complications.