Recently, I was involved in covering one of the busiest maternities in a premier public teaching and referral hospital in Nairobi.
Amid the flooding and awful weather, there were over 50 deliveries including nearly 30 caesarean sections.
An interesting statistic was that, nearly 50 per cent of the women in labour had been induced. Majority of whom was because they had passed their “due date”. Still in the triage room, a very large number of women presented with concerns about having passed their due date.
The number of women who have labour induced has skyrocketed. Some women are tired of being pregnant and an increasing number are being encouraged by their physicians to have labour induced. Threats of “your baby is getting too big” or “your blood pressure is a bit high” or “going past your due date is dangerous” and seduction with “your baby is ready, let’s get on with it” are almost routine.
It should, however, be noted that induction of labor is not a straightforward predictable science. A large number fails and leads to unnecessary caesarean deliveries. Truth is, the management of pregnancy at and beyond term has been a topic of debate worldwide within the medical and mid-wifery community for many decades.
The controversial discussion concerns the pros and cons of induction of labour in light of medicalisation of the ‘natural’ birth, the difficulties to identify appropriate length of human gestation and the definition whether or not a pregnancy is ‘overdue’, ‘post-date’ or ‘prolonged’.
Although due date might seem to have magical qualities, it is simply an educated guess about when the baby is most likely to arrive. It is perfectly normal to give birth one to two weeks before or after the due date.
Relevant literature shows a diversity of opinions on how and to which extent pregnant women should be informed of conflicting evidence on treatment options they would have to decide on.
I advocate and promote nature’s plan and normal birth. Nature is not perfect. However, when it comes to babies and birth, unless there is a clear medical indication that induction of labor will do more good than harm, nature beats science hands down.
For both mothers and babies, it is safe and wise to wait patiently until labour begins on its own.