What is this?
Induction of Labor is artificially starting labor with chemicals that cause contractions or ripen the cervix.
Why would this be done?
This would be done if you and your caregiver agree it is safer for the baby to be outside your body.
How would this be done?
There are two main procedures for inducing labor.
If the cervix is "ripe," meaning it is soft and pliable, your caregiver may recommend using a synthetic hormone called Pitocin to stimulate contractions. The medication is given through an IV drip, and the dosage will be raised every 15 to 30 minutes until your contractions reach a strong pattern.
If the cervix is not "ripe," meaning it is hard, your caregiver may recommend using a prostaglandin gel called Cervidil to soften the cervix first. In some cases, the prostaglandin may be enough to stimulate contractions. In other cases, Pitocin will be used to stimulate contractions after the cervix is ripe.
Some obstetricians are using a drug called Cytotec (misoprostol) to induce labor, however this is a controversial method of starting labor due to the increased risks involved.
An induced labor is not the same as a spontaneous labor. Mothers whose labors have been induced complain that the pain is more severe, and that their bodies did not have the time to prepare for the strong contractions the medications brought on.
Induction of labor requires continuous monitoring to detect complications and IV fluids for administration. It increases the chances for fetal distress due to decreased oxygen availability.
The contractions caused by induction can be long, may double peak and frequently require pain medication to handle.
There is an increased risk of uterine rupture, so induction is generally not an option for someone attempting a VBAC. There is an increased risk of cesarean section, and there is also an increased maternal death rate associated with Pitocin use.
There is an increased likelihood the baby will be in a "bad" position, and there is the possibility that more contractions will not solve the problem of a slow labor. Slow labors are generally caused by factors other than contraction strength.
Other Options to Consider
There are some non-chemical ways to try to start labor. Nipple stimulation (massaging the areola as if a baby were suckling) releases oxytocin into the blood stream and may cause contractions to start. Semen contains prostaglandins which help ripen the cervix, so intercourse may be helpful in preparing the body for labor.
Slow labors may be caused by a bad position of the baby, which can generally be handled by changing positions and moving the pelvis during labor. Some slow labors may be caused by the fear tension pain cycle, which may be handled with increased support and understanding.
If the mother and baby are both ok, there is generally no problem with waiting to see what happens.
There are herbals which seem to have good results at starting labor, an herbalist can help you determine which herbs are safe for you to use. Some women are successful at starting labor with a teaspoon of castor oil in a cup of orange juice, although some women find this method to cause intense cramping, diarrhea and no labor.