Linda Murray: If your labor is induced, it means your caregiver will use medication or other techniques to kick-start the process. It's done when your caregiver thinks the risks of waiting for labor to start on its own are higher than the risks of inducing labor. Induced labor, or induction, as it's sometimes called, is getting more and more common. Today, more than 1 in 5 pregnant women in the United States has her labor started for her, which is more than double the rate 20 years ago.
You might be induced for a variety of reasons, including: you've gone a week or 2 past your due date; it's been 12 to 24 hours since your water broke; you've been diagnosed with preeclampsia, a pregnancy condition involving high blood pressure; your placenta doesn't seem to be working properly; you have low amniotic fluid; or your baby's health or yours is at risk.
Your caregiver can start your labor in several ways. If your cervix hasn't already begun to ripen, or thin and open spontaneously, she'll use medication or another technique to get that process going. Once your cervix is ripe, contractions may start on their own. If they don't, you'll get a drug called Pitocin, a synthetic form of the hormone oxytocin, that will prompt contractions. The most common methods used to ripen the cervix and get contractions started include: inserting medication into your vagina; putting pressure on your cervix with a small, water-filled balloon; stripping or sweeping the membranes, which means your caregiver uses a finger to separate your amniotic sac from the lower part of your uterus; breaking your amniotic sac with a small, hooked tool; and giving you an IV infusion of the drug Pitocin. Many women who are induced experience more than one of these techniques.
If you're induced, you'll need continuous fetal monitoring, so your caregivers can keep close tabs on how you and your baby are doing. Some induction methods like Pitocin can occasionally cause contractions to come on too strong and too fast, which can stress your baby and be tough for you. In rare cases, the methods can cause more serious complications. This is why induction is only recommended when your caregiver feels it's necessary. You may want to ask ahead of time about your caregiver's views on when induction is worth doing. You should also know that inductions don't always work in a timely manner. If your labor fails to progress, you'll need a c-section, since the whole reason you're being induced is that your caregiver thinks it's important to get your baby delivered as soon as possible.
Mom 1: I was induced. I was about a week late, and we scheduled the time with our doctor, went in the night before and did not realize it was going to be a 22-hour ordeal. The nurses gave me Pitocin to get things moving along, and then the next morning, I think they even gave me another drug.
Dad: They gave you a couple.
Mom 1: Yeah.
Dad: And then they broke the water.
Mom 1: And then they broke the water, and after that, things just started moving along. The contractions just came pretty quickly.
Mom 2: I had heard from everybody who ever told me about Pitocin that it was not fun. I had wanted to avoid it, and it definitely got things going.
Mom 3: Nothing's happening. I haven't dilated. My water hasn't broken. So what they did was, basically, they started me on Pitocin that morning, and I continued on Pitocin for pretty much the entire day with no effect.
Mom 4: I wouldn't say I was in pain until, you know, like 9 o'clock, and that's when they were starting to give me a bit more Pitocin. And even then, I was feeling contractions, but they weren't very strong, or not what I expected labor to feel like.