Third Trimester – Investigating Labor Induction

They’re going to induce me … ” These days, it is not uncommon to hear pregnant mothers making such a statement. The 2006 Listening to Mothers II survey demonstrated that “four out of 10 mothers (41 percent) reported that their caregiver tried to induce their labor.” In addition, as many as 47 percent of mothers receive “synthetic oxytocin (Pitocin) to speed labor.”

With nearly half of birthing women receiving Pitocin, it is important to take a look at potential side effects from its use. Pitocin changes the way that labor feels for the mother and it changes birth outcomes.

It is important to take a look at potential side effects.

In some medical practices, an induction is scheduled simply because a woman is still pregnant at her “due date.” The myth about induction is that any mother and baby can have a better outcome by forcing the start of labor. Hospital staff may tell mothers, “This is the same thing that your body is going to make.” Pitocin may in fact be similar to oxytocin. However, it can have different effects on the body.

In many instances, the risks involved with the use of Pitocin rival the potential benefits. When the subject of induction arises, it’s time to seek all of the facts.

This brief overview can help you get started:

  • Intravenesouly receiving Pitocin, a synthetic hormone, is one way to induce labor. Oxytocin is the hormone that is produced in the body that causes contractions. When a woman is receiving Pitocin through an IV, the dosage differs from what would be produced by her body. The dosage is usually increased every half hour.
  • No longer able to: eat or drink, go for a walk or use a bath or shower for pain relief. Options include standing near the monitor, sitting in a rocker or various positions on the bed. For these reasons, use of pain medication increases.
  • Different labor pattern: The higher levels of Pitocin in the bloodstream often cause contractions to be longer and harder than during a spontaneous labor.

Use an informed decision-making process! Parents can gather information and weigh the pros and cons of induction before they decide if it is right for them.

Continuous monitoring is required while using Pitocin. Therefore, labor positions are restricted to those that allow Baby to be monitored easily. Normally, intermittent monitoring is sufficient. However, the longer, stronger contractions of induced labor may decrease the “flow of oxygen-rich blood through the placenta to the fetus,” according to Ina May Gaskin in the book Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth (Bantam, 2003). Therefore, the baby is “watched” closely.

Tendency for fetal distress and hyperstimulation of the uterus increases, as does the use of the vacuum and forceps or Cesarean birth.

Indications for induction, according to Gaskin, include cancer, hypertension, diabetes, kidney disease, small for dates baby, the decrease in amniotic fluid or intrauterine death followed by a long wait for labor to begin.

Other methods of encouraging labor include nipple stimulation, acupuncture treatments, castor oil, sex, sweeping the membranes. It may be useful to research these options and discuss the information during a prenatal visit with your care provider.

National Statistics: According to Gaskin, the U.S. induction rate doubled between 1989 and 1998, from 9 percent to 19.8 percent. Since then it has continued to rise, with approximately 40 percent of labors being induced.

As mothers, fathers and health care practitioners, we need to notice that during the last 15 years, medical indications for induction have not risen to 41 percent of mothers and babies.

The World Health Organization calls for a decrease in the number of inductions, stating that to achieve optimal outcomes, “the induction rate should not be greater than 10 percent in any region.”

Questions Parents Should Ask Before Choosing Induction :

  • Is there a medical indication for induction?
  • How might an induction benefit me and my baby?
  • What are the potential risks involved in this procedure?
  • What other methods can I try first?
  • How long can I wait for labor to begin on its own?
  • If we induce labor, what other procedures may be administered as part of our care?
  • What position is my baby in now? How low is the baby?
  • Is my cervix beginning to change on its own?
  • Where can I find more information about induction?
  • Can I have some time to think this through?