Induction of labour is a medical intervention commonly used to initiate or speed up the birthing process when it doesn't begin naturally or needs assistance. It involves the use of various techniques to stimulate uterine contractions and promote cervical dilation. This blog post aims to provide an overview of induction, including its necessity, guidelines, pros and cons, and its potential impact on the birth and postnatal experience.
What is Induction?
Induction of labour is a medical procedure in which the birthing process is initiated or enhanced artificially. It is typically recommended when there are concerns about the health and well-being of the mother or the baby, or if the pregnancy has surpassed the expected due date. Induction methods can range from non-invasive techniques, such as membrane sweeping or cervical ripening, to more invasive approaches like the use of synthetic hormones or breaking the water.
When is Induction Needed?
Induction may be deemed necessary in several situations:
Prolonged Pregnancy: If a pregnancy exceeds 42 weeks, there might be an increased risk of complications, making induction advisable.
Maternal or Fetal Health Concerns: Induction can be recommended if the mother has certain health conditions, such as high blood pressure or diabetes, or if the baby shows signs of distress.
Premature Rupture of Membranes: If the amniotic sac ruptures before the onset of labour, induction might be necessary to reduce the risk of infection.
Insufficient Progress in Labor: If labour fails to progress adequately, induction may be performed to prevent complications and ensure a safe delivery.
Guidelines for Induction
Induction should be carried out based on careful consideration and adherence to guidelines to ensure the best possible outcome. Some general guidelines include:
Assessment of Maternal and Fetal Conditions: A thorough evaluation of the mother's health and fetal well-being is crucial before deciding to induce labour.
Cervical Ripeness: The readiness of the cervix is assessed to determine the most appropriate induction method.
Controlled Environment: Induction is typically performed in a hospital or birthing center setting, where medical professionals can closely monitor both the mother and the baby.
Pros of Induction
Increased Control: Induction allows healthcare providers to have better control over the timing and progress of labour, ensuring prompt intervention if complications arise.
Reduced Risks: In cases where the health of the mother or baby is at risk, induction can help mitigate potential complications.
Convenience: For some women, knowing the planned date of delivery can provide a sense of preparation and convenience, although it it worth noting that inductions can be paused if labour ward is busy, and that they often take a number of days to work.
Cons of Induction
Longer Labour: Induced labours tend to be longer and more intense, which can lead to increased discomfort and the need for pain relief.
Increased Intervention: Induction often requires the use of synthetic hormones and other medical interventions, which may increase the likelihood of further interventions such as epidurals, assisted deliveries (forceps or ventouse), and c-sections,
Emotional Impact: For women who had hoped for a natural birth experience, the need for induction may cause disappointment or frustration.
Time: Whilst you will get a date and time to go to the hospital for your induction, they often do not start right away. If labour ward is busy or if they have had any emergencies arise, the hospital will not start your induction until these have eased up. This means you could be waiting hours, and sometimes days, in a hospital bed on a shared ward before your induction even starts. It is often crowded, hot, and noisy on the wards and there will be restrictions on visiting times. Equally, once your induction is started, it is not guaranteed to work right away. It is not unusual for it to take a number of days from your induction starting until labour is established and baby is born.
Impact on Birth and Postnatal Experience
Induction can have various effects on the birth and postnatal experience, including:
Pain Management: Induced labour may require more pain relief options, and the intensity of contractions can be different from natural labour.
Emotional Adjustment: Women who undergo induction may need to adjust their expectations and birth plans, which can lead to emotional changes.
Breastfeeding Initiation: Induction might impact the timing of breastfeeding initiation, as some women may need additional recovery time after the delivery process.
Induction of labour is a medical intervention which may be used when natural labour hasn't started or progressed. Whilst there are some reasons why induction may be necessary, there has been an increase in using it against medical guidelines. Make sure you get all the information before you make your decision, and remember that induction is your choice and you do not have to agree to it if you do not want to.