By on June 22, 2017

What is an induction of labor?

Labor induction refers to methods and medicines used by your doctor to trigger labor.  Typically, it involves a midnight admission to the hospital, a medical agent to soften the cervix overnight (foley balloon or misoprostol), time, pitocin to stimulate contractions, more time, breaking the water (rupture of membranes), and a lot more time. 

Why be induced?

Labor induction is often recommended when it is estimated that the risk of staying pregnant outweighs the benefit. Certain medical conditions complicate pregnancy and pose significant harms to mother and baby.  Some of these conditions such as pre-eclampsia, diabetes, older maternal age, placental abnormalities, and poor fetal growth can pose a risk that can be deadly.  Your doctor should explain to you why a labor induction might be recommended for you.

Is there a downside to labor induction?

Many patients state a preference to avoid an induction of labor because “it isn’t natural” and because of the long-held belief that an induction of labor increases the risk of a C-section.  While it is true that an induction of labor isn’t natural, this does not mean that it is a bad.  In fact, an induction of labor can reduce “natural” risks of pregnancy (like stillbirth).  Finally, recent randomized controlled trials do not show an increased risk of C-section.

There are some downsides to an induction of labor.  First, the process is slow. Typically, patients arrive at midnight, and delivery usually doesn’t occur before the following evening.  Second, labor inductions require more time in the hospital relative to spontaneous labor.  Third, some inductions fail, and do not result in a vaginal delivery. As is the case with spontaneous labor, it is impossible to know which laboring patients will need a C-section and which will deliver vaginally.  The best predictor of a successful labor induction is a history of a prior vaginal birth.  The best predictor of a failed labor induction is first pregnancy, advanced maternal age, and an “unfavorable” cervix. 

How can I prepare?

Understand that the process is long and try to be patient.  Bring things to the hospital to distract you and pass the time.  Whether or not you wish to have an early epidural before the induction process begins or no epidural at all, many patients bring music, reading material, movies, birthing balls, breathing techniques, and others to support them through the day. 

Finally, remember that the goal is a healthy mom and a healthy baby.  We as a practice wish to provide you and your family with a safe, beautiful, and healthy delivery.    

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Maternal Fetal Medicine blogs are intended for educational purposes only and do not replace certified professional care. Medical conditions vary and change frequently. Please ask your doctor any questions you may have regarding your condition to receive a proper diagnosis or risk analysis. Thank you!

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