More pregnant women elect to induce labor these days as they near their delivery due date. But is this a healthy option for women and their babies?
Labor induction is a procedure that stimulates uterine contractions during pregnancy to start the labor process. Inductions are performed a couple of ways, one is with medicine to ripen the cervix and to get the uterus to contract. The other is by breaking the water bag. Women should know that elective induction can lead to several days of labor depending on how quickly the cervix dilates.
Most of the time it’s the patient who is pushing the doctor to induce for a variety of reasons. More times than not, it’s about them being really uncomfortable toward the end of their pregnancy and just being ready to deliver.
If there is a medical reason for an induction, we will be the first to let our patients know. But ultimately it is their choice.
The vast majority of women deliver between 39 to 41 weeks, which is around the 40 week standard. But a lot of women think that if they are close enough to the end of their pregnancy term that it may not be such a big deal to speed the process up a bit by inducing. But that is not true. In fact, inducing labor just one week before the due date could affect the development of the fetus’ mental and lung maturity, as this usually happens around week 39.
Labor induction involves many risks and complications, both for the baby and the mother. These include:
- Increased risks of prematurity and jaundice
- A higher chance of being admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit
- Low heart rate
- Umbilical cord problems
- Infection risk for baby and mother
- Uterine rupture
- Bleeding after delivery
- Developmental conditions that could lead to learning disabilities and lower IQs.
On the other hand, serious medical conditions warrant labor induction. Some of these include:
- A diagnosis of high blood pressure or hypertension gestational diabetes
- Decreased fetal movement
- Broken water bag while not being in labor
- A birth canal too small to allow for normal labor and birth.
In addition to the standard induction, there is another type of induction that a small portion of women undergo called, post-dates induction.
Post-dates inductions are performed when a woman goes through full-term pregnancy beyond 41 weeks. These involve quite a bit of monitoring to be sure that the baby is healthy and in no risk from the induction. Most doctors recommend delivery by 42 weeks.
The take away here is for women to really understand what they are signing up for by doing research on labor induction and having an open and honest conversation with their doctor.