It may seem like induced labors are “the new thing,” but that’s not necessarily a good thing. In fact, the best labor and deliveries are the ones that begin naturally, and spontaneously because the baby is ready.
Induced labors carry higher risks for both mother and baby, so it’s important to educate yourself. In some cases, it may be smart to hold your ground and bide your time for just a day or two more (assuming all is well with you and baby) to let your labor start without medical intervention.
The reality is that women experiencing induced labors are far more likely to require a C-section, and this can be avoided if induction isn’t necessary in the first place.
When is induction necessary?
You’ll hear many different viewpoints on this topic. First, there are medical conditions or emergent situations that result in induction. If you want to avoid induction, consider adding a midwife to your labor and delivery team. Evidence shows women supported by midwives use fewer interventions and experience better and more positive labor/delivery outcomes than those without.
Some of the conditions that clearly warrant induction include:
- An infection in your uterus
- Consistently high blood pressure and/or eclampsia, or evidence of organ damage
- Placenta abruption – your placenta begins to partially or entirely pull away from the uterine wall
- Certain pre-existing medical conditions such as obesity or diabetes
- Fetal growth less than 10% of normal fetal growth ranges (fetal growth restriction)
These scenarios put you and your baby at significant risks, so most doctors advise letting your pregnancy progress under careful monitoring, and inducing pregnancy when the baby is developed enough to breathe on his/her own.
Then there are situations where pregnancy is induced, but it may not need to be depending on your medical stats:
- Two weeks past your due date. While the science of predicting due dates is getting better and better, the reality is that these dates are relevant within 14 days or so. Babies develop on their own timeline and some are happy to hang out a bit longer than others in utero without risk. Of course, if you or your baby are showing signs of distress, induction is always the right choice. It’s fairly common to go up to two weeks or a bit more past your due date, especially if it’s your first baby.
- The water broke. Most healthcare providers are going to get pushy about induction if your water broke and you still haven’t gone into labor over the course of 24-hours. This is because your risk of infection goes up – and the baby has less water support it. However, careful monitoring and no signs of distress from you or baby may convince your doctor to hold out a bit longer if you’d rather avoid induction.
- Depleted amniotic fluid. The medical term for this is oligohydramnios. It means there’s not enough amniotic fluid to support the baby. While it occurs in about 4% to 8% of all pregnancies, oligohydramnios is most likely to occur (12%) in pregnancies that go two weeks further than their due date. In most cases, drinking plenty of water and getting rest (something you’ll need if you’re already two weeks past your due date!) will typically allow you and your baby a safe journey until you start labor naturally.
Know the risks before agreeing to an induced labor
The problem with inducing labor is that the chemical (oxytocin or a prostaglandin) used to do so has a more dramatic effect on the body than the natural hormones that initiate labor. This makes for more intense contractions that put you and baby under stress; and, as we mentioned before, it puts you at risk for C-section.
- Failed induction. If your induction fails, odds are Mother Nature knew best and now we have a situation where you weren’t ready to go into labor, induction has failed, but contractions have put baby (or you) in distress, requiring a C-section.
- Low heart rate. The contractions from induced labors are more intense than natural contractions (believe it or not!). This can cause diminished blood/oxygen supply to baby, decelerating his/her heart rate below what is healthy.
- Bleeding after delivery. Because the induction medications sideline your natural body’s response, women are more prone to uterine bleeding (hemorrhaging) after delivery because the uterus doesn’t contract properly after the baby’s born.
- Placenta abruption. If you’ve had a C-section in the past and hoped for a VBAC, inducing your labor puts you at higher risk for a uterine tear along the previous incision scar. This is quite rare, but it does happen.
Those risks are serious and worth taking into consideration before jumping at a chance at an induction that may not be absolutely necessary.
Ready to work with an OB and labor/delivery team who only suggestions interventions or labor induction if they’re medically necessary? Schedule your prenatal appointment with Overlake.