Labor induction is the use of medications or other methods to bring on (induce) labor. Labor is induced for many reasons. Some of the methods used to induce labor also can speed up labor if it is going too slowly. Labor is induced in about 20% of pregnant women in the United States. If you missed Part one, you can view it here.
How Is It Done?
There are a number of ways to start labor. Some may be done in your doctor’s office. Other methods are done in a hospital, where labor and delivery services are nearby and the fetus can be monitored.
Ripening or Dilating the Cervix
If your cervix is not ready for labor, certain medications or devices may be used to make it soft and able to stretch for labor. Special dilators can be inserted into the cervix to widen it. Prostaglandins are drugs that can be used to prepare the cervix for labor. They are synthetic forms of chemicals produced naturally by the body. These drugs can be inserted into the vagina or taken by mouth.
Stripping the Membranes
To strip the membranes, your doctor checks your cervix with a gloved finger. Next, he or she sweeps the finger over the thin membranes that connect the amniotic sac to the wall of your uterus. You may feel some intense cramping and have spotting when this is done. Stripping the membranes is done in term pregnancies. It causes your body to release prostaglandins, which soften the cervix and may cause contractions.
Stripping the membranes may be done if your doctor’s office or in the hospital. If bleeding becomes heavier than a normal menstrual period, call your doctor.
Rupturing the Amniotic Sac
If it has not broken already, breaking your water can get contractions started. Your doctor may make a small opening in the amniotic sac. This procedure may cause some discomfort. Rupturing the amniotic sac is done in term pregnancies after the baby’s head has moved down in the pelvis. Most women go into labor within hours of their water breaking. Another method of labor induction may be added if labor does not occur.
Oxytocin is a medication used to induce labor. It is a man-made hormone that causes contractions. When oxytocin is used to induce labor or make contractions. When oxytocin is used to induce labor or make contractions stronger, it flows into your bloodstream through an intravenous (IV) tube in your arm. A pumped hook up to the IV tube controls the amount you are given. Other drugs also are used to induce labor in specific situations.
For some women, having the baby is safer than continuing the pregnancy. Your labor may be induced if you have not started labor on your own of if you have problems that present a risk to you or your baby. There are a number of methods your doctor may choose to induce labor.