Why can’t we just induce the labor now?
If the pregnancy is healthy, it’s best to let labor begin on its own. This give the baby’s lungs and other organs time to fully develop before the baby is born.
The healthcare provider (ob doctor, nurse midwife) may recommend inducing labor in certain situations. Some of these are:
- If you’re close to 2 weeks past the due date.
- The baby has stopped growing
- There is less fluid surrounding the baby
- If you have diabetes or high blood pressure
- There is an infection inside the uterus
- The mother lives far from the hospital and/ or has a history of short labors and fast deliveries
- The pregnancy is at least 39 weeks by certain dates and there is an overriding social or emotional reason to deliver the baby
Labor may be induced with medications.
A prostaglandin pill is usually placed in the vagina next to the cervix, the end of the womb sitting in the vagina. This medication is used if the cervix is not ripe and ready to go into labor. Prostaglandins sometimes stimulate enough contractions so the mother will go into labor on her own without any further medicines or manipulation.
Oxytocin also known as Pitocin is used if the cervix is ripe, to start or help the contractions. This medication is delivered through the IV and is measured on a mechanical pump to adjust the dosage.
Mechanical methods or manipulations are also used.
A Foley catheter may be inserted into the small opening of the cervix. A balloon at the tip of the catheter is inflated which puts pressure on the walls of the cervix allowing the mother’s own natural prostaglandins to be released. Once the cervix softens ups and opens, the catheter is removed or just falls out on its own.
The healthcare provider may rupture the membranes, the sac inside the uterus, letting the amniotic fluid out if the mother’s cervix is open and the baby’s head is well applied to the cervix. This tends to stimulate labor, although sometimes additional oxytocin is needed to increase the frequency and effectiveness of the contractions.
There are certain home remedy techniques that have been tried including herbal preparations and nipple stimulation that may cause uncontrolled uterine contractions and put the mother and baby at risk.
Sometimes an induction just doesn’t work and depending on the reason for the process, the mother can be safely discharged from the hospital to rest at home and try again in a few days. In the case where there is a problem if the pregnancy continues, a cesarean section delivery may be the only reasonable course of action.