For most women, the end of pregnancy is uncomfortable, not much fun and sometimes downright miserable. By this point, pregnant women typically can’t take a deep breath, feel like they are making a trip to the bathroom every five minutes, are likely not sleeping well, and have an aching back and swollen feet. Every hour or so, someone is probably sending an “any news?” text which gets obnoxious and unnerving after the first 5. Many women feel like they are in “limbo land” just waiting for something to happen and every day they hope for contractions to start.
All of these discomforts, the physical aches and the emotionally draining waiting game, can make a mother susceptible to an elective induction of labor, especially when it is cheerfully offered by a trusted doctor or midwife who wants to make sure that no mother is uncomfortable or miserable any longer than necessary. An induction involves giving your body the hormone (oxytocin) it naturally produces only in a synthetic form (pitocin). What could be the harm? An induction can mean that the aches and pains of pregnancy will be done, the end is in sight, and life can move on. Not to mention it really helps out with planning and scheduling to have a date marked off. At last baby will be out of the mom’s belly and into her arms. It is easy to be tempted to say “YES!”
But, before giving into the induction temptation, it is crucial to ask thoughtful questions, gather information and make an informed decision. These steps are vital in any situation where a medical decision will be made, but especially one that will affect your baby and could potentially have lasting consequences, such as how your future pregnancies and labors will unfold. There are many important questions to ask, but these two are essential.
1. What are the risks?
The mother who has taken a childbirth class may have already learned about the risks of induction. A body that is not ready for labor usually will face challenges in getting labor started artificially, which can increase the likelihood of baby being stressed and/or needing a cesarean. Inductions often take longer and may be more painful than natural labor. It may be beneficial to ask what specific medications will be used (Cervidil, Cytotec, Pitocin) and/or what procedures might be used (Foley bulb, AROM) for an induction and look into their risks and side effects. Most women are diligent and careful about what goes into their bodies during pregnancy. This is no less important during labor than it was throughout the pregnancy.
2. Is there any medical reason for doing an induction right now?
There are absolutely situations in which the advantages of induction outweigh the risks, such as serious, life-threatening complications. However, being uncomfortable, feeling like a watched pot and waiting in “limbo land,” while unpleasant, are not serious complications or medical problems. If mother and baby are both healthy and no medical reason exists to warrant induction, it is important to understand that the risks most likely outweigh the advantages. Labor induction is a serious intervention that holds the power to change the entire course of labor and birth, and introduce unnecessary risk.
In the big picture, the uncomfortable feelings fade from your memory, but doubts about your choice or regrets for inducing early will stay with you. Pause, think for a moment and ask all the important questions before giving in to the induction temptation!
Jennifer Stutzman, Freelance Writer
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