Sometimes towards the end of pregnancy, it becomes necessary or preferable for labor to get a jumpstart to get going. We call these situations an induction of labor. While many moms-to-be have heard of the drug Pitocin, and it's association as one of the most well-known methods of induction these days, there are actually quite a few ways to induce or encourage labor along.
Common Induction Methods
We won't go into exactly what each of these methods are or why they might be suggested right here, but here are the most common induction methods you might here about:
- Membrane stripping (not necessarily as painful or invasive as it sounds).
- Foley bulb or Cook's catheter inserted into the cervix to manually dilate it.
- Artificial Rupture of Membranes (AROM), a.k.a. when the doc or midwife breaks your water for you.
- Artificial prostaglandin medication, such as Cytotec (a pill) or Cervidil (a vaginal suppository).
- Sex with ejaculation into the vaginal canal (semen is the natural version of prostaglandin).
- Artificial oxytocin, such as Pitocin (most commonly given via IV for induction).
- Nipple stimulation, either manually or with a breast pump (which will produce the natural version of oxytocin).
- Various herbs, essential oils, and even castor oil. Some of these will cause uterine contractions, and others will just bother things down there, with the hopes of kicking things up enough to send you into full-blown labor.
All of these induction methods have different purposes, and your healthcare provider will guide you in knowing which combination of methods might be the best for you in your individual circumstance!
Questions to Ask Before an Induction
Many times as labor doulas we are asked to help clients better understand the reasons an induction is being recommended. They want help figuring out what questions to ask so that they feel in control and fully informed about what is happening! Here are a few questions we often recommend asking your OB or midwife, depending on the individual situation:
- What are my options right now?
- What is my Bishop Score, and what does that number mean? What does my Bishop Score tell you about how we should proceed next with the induction?
- What are the Benefits and Risks of what you are offering?
- Are there any alternatives you might suggest?
- What will happen if we chose do nothing right now?
- Am I healthy? Is my baby healthy? Do you see anything concerning about our health right now?
- How long do you anticipate an induction to last for me, and will I be on any sort of timeframe?
- What will the next step be if what you are suggesting now doesn't work? What about if it does work?
- How much time, if any, can we have before deciding what to do next?
- How does an induction fit into my other birth preferences? Are there still some pieces of our original plan that we can incorporate or strive toward?
What Is Next?
Take some deep breaths! Take the information you have and take the next step. Induction is sometimes medically necessary, and sometimes it is emotionally necessary. With the help of your trusted OB or midwife, you will know what the best next step is to achieve a happy, healthy, and positive birth experience, and we will be there to support you too!