If you’re an expectant mom, your doctor may have spoken to you about labor induction. Labor induction is a topic that can create debate because there are some risks, but there are also situations where it’s medically necessary.
It’s estimated that around 20% of births in the United States begin with induction of some type, and there are drugs like Cervidil that are used to start labor.
The following are some things to know about induction and the medicines used, as well as possible risks to speak with your OB/GYN about.
An Overview of Labor Induction
When you’re induced, your doctor is stimulating your uterus to contract before labor begins on its own.
There are various reasons why your health care provider might tell you induction is best for you, involving your health or the health of your baby.
There are a number of specific reasons your health care provider could advise labor induction, such as gestational diabetes, blood pressure disorders during pregnancy, or fetal growth restriction.
Placental abruption or other medical conditions like obesity or kidney disease could lead your doctor to recommend induction.
There are some situations where you might talk about an elective induction with your doctor.
This means that your pregnancy is full-term and you don’t medically need an induction, but for convenience reasons you have it. This could include not living near your hospital, for example. Elective induction is what we most often talk about as being a controversial topic.
In addition to medical concerns, you could be induced if you’re overdue. Most medical practitioners will induce if a patient is at 42 weeks.
In some situations, induction isn’t medically advised and in this case, a C-section may be what a health care provider suggests.
How Is Labor Induced?
There are different ways to induce labor including cervical ripening, membrane stripping, rupturing the membranes, and the use of Pitocin.
To ripen the cervix, there may be synthetic prostaglandins placed in the vagina. They thin the cervix, and then that can lead to contractions.
Medicines like Pitocin are given intravenously. Pitocin is a synthetic form of oxytocin. Oxytocin is the hormone responsible for uterine contractions.
Oxytocin tends to be better as something to speed-up labor that’s already started versus being a cervical ripening solution.
With membrane stripping, a health care provider makes an opening in your amniotic sac using a plastic hook.
One of these options may be used, and in other cases, a combination could be used.
What Is Cervidil?
Cervidil is one of the medicines that may be used during labor induction, but it’s one that’s also been the subject of medical malpractice claims.
Cervidil is used to prepare the cervix for labor and delivery.
The drug should only be used in a hospital setting, and the generic name is dinoprostone.
This synthetic hormone softens the cervix, and after it’s applied the woman who receives it should lie down for at least two hours.
There are possible minor side effects like nausea or abdominal pain.
There can also be more serious side effects, which is why your doctor will monitor your vitals and your baby’s after you’re giving this medicine. For example, it can lead to shortness of breath or changes in heartrate.
For the baby, there is a risk of something called hyperstimulation. Hyperstimulation happens when a woman goes into labor too quickly, with contractions that are too fast. This can be dangerous for a baby, and it can interfere with their oxygen supply.
This is rare, but if your doctor is speaking with you about induction, it may be something to ask about.
Risks of Induction
Along with the risks of specific medicines, again, there are some induction risks to be aware of and go over with your doctor if you have any concerns.
For example, there is an increased risk of birth complications like fetal distress.
You may be more likely to receive an epidural if you’re induced because your labor may be stronger and more painful, and that can then make it harder to push.
Finally, induction can mean an increased risk of c-section, but this isn’t always the case.
Your doctor should go over the specifics of your situation with you before advising induction. They can talk with you about the possible risks and benefits and decide which option outweighs the other because it’s different for every woman and her baby.