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What is labour induction?
Sometimes, if labour hasn’t started on its own, healthcare providers use medicines to make a woman’s labour start so she can deliver her baby vaginally. This is called “labour induction.”
Why would my healthcare provider recommend labour induction?
The most common reason for labour induction is that the pregnancy has gone 2 weeks or more past the due date. The baby may get too big if you carry it this far past your due date. It may not be able to get enough food from inside your body. Your healthcare provider might also recommend labour induction if:
- Your water breaks but you aren’t having any contractions.
- You have high blood pressure.
- You have an infection in your uterus.
- You have diabetes.
- There isn’t enough amniotic fluid around the baby.
How will my healthcare provider induce labour?
There are several ways to induce labour. Toward the end of pregnancy, the cervix (the opening to the uterus, or womb) gets soft. It may even open up a little. Your healthcare provider will check to see if your cervix is getting soft and opening up. If it isn’t, your healthcare provider may put a medicine in your vagina near the cervix. The medicine helps your cervix get soft and open up.
Your healthcare provider may also “break your water” or use a finger to separate your cervix from the membranes (tissues) around your baby’s head. This often makes labour start.
Your healthcare provider will watch you closely. When you’re ready, your healthcare provider will start giving you a medicine called oxytocin. Oxytocin will start your contractions and help them to get strong and regular.
Are there any risks to labour induction?
One risk is that the medicine might not work. If your labour won’t start with medicine, you might need to have a caesarean section (also called a C-section). The medicine also might make your contractions too strong. If this happens, your healthcare provider might stop the medicine and wait for a while, or do a caesarean section. If your labour is induced because of medical problems, there might be other risks.
What can I expect during labour induction?
Sometimes it takes 2 or 3 days to induce labour, but it usually takes less time. It takes more time if you’re being induced really early or if it’s your first baby. Don’t eat very much before you come to the hospital. Remember that the medicines for labour induction can give you very strong contractions and might upset your stomach. Tell your healthcare provider if you need help with the pain. In most cases, labour induction goes well and you can deliver your baby vaginally.
Current Trends in Cervical Ripening and Labour Induction by Jefferson H. Harman, Jr., LT COL, USAF, MC, FS, and Andrew Kim, MAJ, USAF, MC (American Family Physician 08/01/99, http://www.aafp.org/afp/990800ap/477.html)