If your doctor suggests inducing you, you may not be sure what’s involved or if it’s really necessary. Here’s what you should know:
Many babies are born about a week late - especially first babies. But if one week stretches to two and you’re still waiting, you may hear the word “induction” mentioned-which means your labour will be started artificially.
On average, 17 per cent of labors are induced, though this varies widely depending on hospitals and doctors.
You might need to be induced if:
• Your waters have broken but contractions fail to start
• Your baby is overdue
• You have very high blood pressure or pre-eclampsia
• You start bleeding in late pregnancy, due to partial separation of the placenta
• You have diabetes
• You and your baby have rhesus incompatibility.
Does it matter if the baby is late?
After a certain time, your placenta works less efficiently and can’t provide your baby with all the oxygen she needs - so your baby should be delivered before this happens.
Some obstetricians like to induce women who are just one week late, while others may wait for two weeks or longer. This is because, for most women, there’s a period during which it is safe to either induce the baby or wait for natural labour.
It’s thought that the placenta in older expectant mums starts to fail sooner - so if you are aged 35 or older, you may find that your doctor suggests an induction earlier than she would for younger women.
Pluses and minuses
In some cases induction is vital for your baby’s health - but it has other benefits too. For a start, you will save yourself a few days of discomfort, and your baby is likely to be smaller, making delivery easier. You also won’t have to worry about going into labour unexpectedly, so you can let your partner know when to take time off work and arrange for someone to look after your other children.
On the minus side, inductions are always preformed in hospital, so you won’t be able to spend the early part of your labour at home and you may pass a sleepless night on the ward waiting for it to take effect.
In most natural labors there’s a slow build-up, when you’re pottering around at home not really sure if you’ve started or not. When you’re induced, particularly with oxygen, contractions can be quite intense from the start, making the labour less easy to cope with.
And being attached to a drip and monitor means you can’t move around freely, so you’re likely to be sitting in a hospital bed anticipating each contraction, which may make them seem worse.
Women who are induced are also more likely to need pethidine, an epidural, forceps delivery or a caesarean section - and the induction is not guaranteed to work!
There are various ways to induce labour, and they may be used separately , together or one after the other, depending on your circumstances.
Induction and your baby
With an oxytocin drip, the frequent, strong contractions can reduce the blood supply to the baby, so there’s an increased risk of hypoxia (lack of oxygen).
Your baby’s heart rate will be monitored carefully and if she’s showing signs of distress, the drip can be turned off or a caesarean carried out, depending on your circumstances.
Babies who are induced may also take longer to start breathing.
Staying in control
Make sure you’re involved in all decisions to do with your induction. The key to staying in control is knowing what’s going on, so ask questions every step of the way. For instance, you might like to ask:
• What would happen if you waited a bit longer
• What kind of procedure would be used
• What’s likely to happen
• What would happen if it wasn’t effective
• Is there any other way of inducing labour
• What kind of monitoring would be used
Is induction absolutely necessary?
Don’t be rushed into a decision - tell your doctor you’d like to think it over and discuss it with your partner before you decide.