By Naomi Starsiak
When a mother nears her due date her doctor will usually initiate a conversation about what to do if labor does not start on its own. Generally, that conversation consists of the doctor simply informing the mom that she has been scheduled for an induction on such-and-such day, unless she manages to have the baby before then.
The word “induction”, while leaning towards clinical, sound fairly easy to understand: to bring on or start. So labor is going to start. There are a few ways this can happen and each way has its own pros and cons.
A medical induction uses several different medications to stimulate and mimic the body’s natural processes in the hope that labor will begin; the most common of those medications is a combination of Cervidil and Pitocin. Cervidil is inserted vaginally, and usually left in overnight, as a way to start dilating the cervix. After dilation has started, Pitocin is given as part of an IV drip to bring on uterine contractions. If a mother has already started to dilate on her own, the induction might start with just the Pitocin.
Another way to get things started, if a mom has dilated, is to “break the water” – known in medical terms as Artificial Rupture of Membranes. The doctor will do a vaginal exam to ensure there is enough dilation and while their fingers are still in there a small hook (really, it looks just like a crochet hook) will be guided in to catch and scratch the bag of waters, causing a small tear. As the amniotic fluid leaks out the baby’s head comes into contact with the cervix, causing it to dilate further, and helping to strengthen the contraction pattern.
You might be able to tell already that a medical induction is better for a mom whose body hasn’t really started the labor process at all, while Rupture of Membranes is better for a mom who has started dilating and has been having sporadic contractions but no real pattern. Each of these methods has their drawbacks too. The contractions brought on by Pitocin are very strong and a lot of women end up needing pain medicine, which can slow labor down, and just breaking the water doesn’t always work but it does put you on a clock – with the bag open the risk of infection will start to increase after 24 hours so antibiotics might have to be given or Pitocin might be used to speed things up.
Naomi Starsiak is a birth and postpartum doula, a placenta encapsulator, a natural birth consultant, and the co-owner of A Peaceful Birth doula & childbirth service. You can find her on Facebook at facebook.com/APeacefulBirthDoulas.
Have a question? E-mail it to Naomi at firstname.lastname@example.org.