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You’ve probably heard of a number of women who have had their labors induced. In fact, starting labor artificially is quite common with nearly 1 in 4 women induced.
But what’s right for you and your baby? How do you push for the best care?
The smartest place to start is with the facts.
It’s no secret: the last few weeks of pregnancy can be tough on moms. But they’re also some of the most important to your baby’s full growth and development. In the last part of your pregnancy your baby’s lungs mature and prepare to breathe on their own, he or she develops a layer of protective fat and critical brain function progresses.
Your “due date” is an approximation of the day your baby may choose to arrive, but science tells us that every baby grows, matures and arrives on his or her own schedule. Additionally, your own body is preparing itself to give birth by producing hormones that will help with labor, delivery, recovery, breastfeeding and even parenting! Spontaneous onset of labor is the best way for you to know that both you and your baby are “ready.”
Unfortunately, induced labor can pose health risks for you and your baby. It’s important to be familiar with the valid reasons for induction, how to spot one that’s medically unnecessary and to know how and when to push for safer care. You may need to begin labor artificially if:
- You’re showing few signs of labor by 42 confirmed weeks of pregnancy
- You have a medical disease that is not responding to treatment
- You have certain medical conditions such as high blood pressure and too much protein in the urine (a condition known as preeclampsia)
- Your labor isn’t starting on it’s own after your water breaks and you have a Group B Strep positive culture
- You have a uterine infection
- Your baby’s growth has been slow for his or her age
If you experience any of the above issues, your provider may recommend beginning labor early to protect you and your baby from potential complications. However, there are some occasions when induction may be recommended despite there being no benefit to you or your baby. Common reasons include:
- Controlling timing of the birth to plan around holidays, vacations, relatives visiting from out of town
- Controlling the timing of the birth to match with the doctor’s schedule
- Ending the discomfort associated with full-term pregnancy
- Worry that baby is growing too large
The Lamaze website provides information on the potential risks associated with induction, including added stress for your baby, greater pain for mom, increased need for cesarean and increased need for intensive care after birth. To ensure that induction is used for the right reasons, remember to ask questions. As the patient, you have control during the decision-making process, so don’t be afraid to ask the following:
- Is there a medical reason to induce labor?
- Are there non-medical alternatives I can try to speed labor along?
- Am I in immediate danger if I don’t go into labor now?
- Is my baby in immediate danger if I don’t go into labor now?
- How ready is my body for induction? (Ask about your Bishop score)
- What does the research say about the risks for induction?
- Do I need to make a decision now or can I wait?
It’s also helpful to have a pregnancy partner and doula nearby as you go through care decision-making. The expertise of a doula coupled with the comfort and understanding a partner can provide will help you deliver your baby in a way that is safest, healthiest most comfortable for you. (Check out Lamaze’s recorded webinar and tip sheet or cheat sheet on ways to be a top-notch pregnancy partner!)
To watch real parents tell their stories about how they pushed for better care in spite of pressures, check out Lamaze’s “Parents Pushing for Better” video.
 Martin, Joyce, Brady Hamilton, Stephanie Ventura, Michelle Osterman, and T.J. Matthews. "Births: Final Data for 2011."National Vital Statistics Reports. Version Volume 62, number 1. National Vital Statistics System, 28 June 2013. Web. 8 Oct. 2013. <www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr62/nvsr62_0 Moreob.com 2013 Induction of labor Chapter. Salus global Corporation