Some things are worth the wait. Standing in a 45 minute line for a 2 minute ride at a theme park? Nah. Waiting until your body and baby signal it's time to go into labor, even if that means you're still pregnant at 41 weeks? In most cases, yes!
"Letting labor begin on its own" is the first of the Lamaze Six Healthy Birth Practices, and is almost always safer and healthier to follow than scheduling an induction.
Let's get real for a sec -- nearly everyone who gets to the end of their pregnancy is over it. It's a normal and even expected feeling. For many, sleep is difficult, moving around is challenging, and then there are worries about birth and your baby. The idea that you could end your pregnancy sooner rather than later by scheduling an induction sounds downright appealing! But it's important to know what's at stake. Contrary to what some well-intended friends and even doctors may tell you, induction shouldn't be taken lightly.
With an induction, there’s no way to know if your baby and your body are ready for birth. Going against this physiological (“natural”) process can cause problems and create unnecessary risks for both of you. Additionally, induction can take longer than one or two days and sometimes, it doesn’t work at all, leading to cesarean. Of course, you may need an induction for the health and safety of you and your baby - learn more about medical reasons below.
Letting labor begin on its own is almost always easier and safer than induction. Here’s why:
- Medications used for induction can make contractions stronger, longer, and more frequent than regular contractions, which increases pain and fatigue in labor
- Induced labor with Pitocin causes stronger and longer squeezes during contractions, which can cause distress for baby. This can be seen in worrisome heart rate changes on the fetal monitor, which may lead to cesarean.
- Induced labor almost always requires an intravenous line (IV) and continuous electronic fetal monitoring, which make it harder to move and change positions that increase comfort and help labor progress.
- When you let labor start on its own, you can be more confident that your baby is ready to be born and your body is working the way it should
Medical Reasons for Induction
Sometimes, a medical condition or complication makes labor induction necessary. In these cases, inducing your labor is safest for you, your baby, or both, despite the risks of induction. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has identified six of the situations when induction may be safer than waiting for labor to start on its own:
- Water has broken and labor has not started within 12-24 hours
- Pregnancy goes past 41 weeks
- Conditions like preeclampsia or HELLP that causes high blood pressure
- Health problems, such as diabetes, that could affect baby
- Infection in the uterus
- Baby is growing too slowly
If you need to have an induction for medical reasons, find out how to lower the risks of induction during your labor and birth.
Unnecessary Reasons for Induction
Sometimes, induction is recommended for unnecessary reasons and it is not safer for you or your baby. Induction is not necessary when:
- You and your baby are healthy, but your care provider believes your baby is getting too big
- Your amniotic fluid is low, but you and your baby are otherwise healthy
- You are “done” being pregnant or want to give birth during a specific timeframe for reasons like avoiding a holiday or having a specific doctor or midwife (“elective induction”)
Talk with your care provider early on in your pregnancy to find out how often and for what reasons they might suggest induction. If your care provider suggests induction for any of the unnecessary reasons above, ask questions to learn more about your options, or consider seeking a new provider.
Asking Questions About Induction
If your care provider recommends induction of labor, find out why. The answers you receive will help you determine if labor induction is the right decision for you and your baby.
- Why are you recommending induction?
- What are the risks to my baby and me if I wait for labor to begin on its own?
- Does research confirm that inducing labor in this situation is safe and will reduce my risk of an unhealthy outcome?
- Can we try more natural methods of induction before using medication?
- Is induction likely to be successful for me?
- Is my cervix ripe? (Your provider can tell you if your cervix is ripe. Women who are induced before their cervix is ripe are much more likely to have cesareans, even if cervical ripening drugs are used.)
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