The first thing you will need to decide when it is appropriate to Induce Labor (start labor artificially). After making the decision that it is safer for your baby to be born right away, you will need to decide what the safest way for you to start labor will be.
- Natural Labor Stimulation Techniques
Some women are successful at using natural labor stimulation techniques to begin their labor. Generally these women are already showing signs of their body preparing for labor such as frequent Braxton-Hicks contractions, cervical softening and pelvic stretching. Some of the most commonly used methods are sexual intercourse, increased activity levels (such as going for walks), oral doses of castor oil, nipple stimulation and herbal preparations of blue or black cohosh.
Stripping the Membranes
One technique that can induce labor is for the bag of waters to be pulled away from the cervix by your midwife during a vaginal exam. This can cause a back ache, cramping and some light bleeding for a day or two. Success rate of this technique is not known.
- Mechanical Dilation
If the bag of waters is intact bu the cervix is not ready to dilate, your midwife might recommend a mechanical dilator. These are tools placed inside the cervix to open it slowly with pressure. One style is like a balloon that presses on the cervix to open it. Another slowly gets larger as it absorbs fluids, causing the cervix to slowly open.
If it is necessary to begin labor, but the cervix is hard and long, efforts to begin contractions with artificial oxytocin will probably not be successful. In these cases, it is generally necessary to "soften" the cervix and make it ready to stretch. There are two main types of prostaglandin treatments used in hospitals today. One is a cervical cream called cervidil, the other is a pill called cytotec.
- Starting Labor with Oxytocin (Pitocin) If it is necessary to begin labor and the cervix is soft and stretchy, your health care team may recommend using Pitocin to begin your labor. This will require you to have an IV and be monitored continuously during the administration of the drug.
Risks of Artificially Starting Labor
There are risks associated with each method of labor induction. The risks vary in their severity depending to the type of induction and the reason for the induction. Be sure to discuss all options and their benefits and risks in your situation with your midwife before making a decision.
General Risks for all types of induction (including natural induction techniques)
The baby may not be ready to be born (pre-mature).
May not "solve" the problem, labor is a complex response to hormonal changes which is not always easy to stimulate.
May cause extremely strong contractions or contractions to come faster than expected.