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April 26, 2019 • OB/GYN
Labor induction is a planned, artificial start of the birthing process. In the past, medical providers would only induce labor if there was a health risk for the mother or her baby. More recently, though, many women are opting for “elective induction” (i.e., inducing labor without a medical reason or emergency) because it allows them to plan the birth of their babies around their busy schedules. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists advises against elective inductions, however, and recommends inducing labor only when it is riskier for a baby to remain in the womb than to be born.
According to the American Pregnancy Association, there are a few valid medical reasons to induce labor. A doctor might encourage an expectant mother to get induced if:
Labor induction can occur in one of three ways: via medication, artificial rupture of the membranes (AROM) or nipple stimulation. Medications such as oxytocin stimulate contractions, which initiate labor. The benefit of using medications to induce labor is that it can speed up the pace of labor or initiate it when it may not have started on its own. Some healthcare providers may use suppositories to induce labor.
AROM refers to the process of rupturing the amniotic sac to speed up contractions. Once the sac has been ruptured, the doctor will use a thin plastic hook to brush aside the membranes and coax the baby’s head closer to the cervix.
You can also induce labor naturally via nipple stimulation. Nipple stimulation with a breastfeeding pump releases the hormone oxytocin, which causes contractions.
Just as with any medical procedure, there are pros and cons of labor induction. It is imperative you weigh the benefits and risks with your doctor and choose the induction method that is right for you. Each method for inducing labor also has its pros and cons. Some pros include:
There are risks to induction, however. For instance, with AROM, the baby may turn to a breech position, which may make birth more difficult. There is also the risk that the umbilical cord can slip out first during AROM, which creates risks for more serious issues such as strangulation. Also, if too much time lapses between rupture and birth, an infection may develop.
Medication-induced labor also poses risks. For example, it can cause labor to progress too quickly, making it difficult to manage the pain.
Ideally, you should go into labor naturally, as your baby will come when he or she is ready. However, if there is an issue with your pregnancy, talk to your doctor about whether inducing labor is right for you.
“Induction.” American Pregnancy Association.
“Your pregnancy and baby guide: Inducing labour.” The National Health Service (United Kingdom).
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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.