It feels like you’ve been waiting an eternity to meet your little one and have planned out your labor. So, you’ve got your hospital bag and birthing playlist ready for that transcendental birth experience. However, not everything goes according to plan. And now, your doctor recommends an induction. While your plans fade away, you can still incorporate that playlist and hospital bag because induction is an artificially stimulated labor to ensure you and your baby stay healthy.
What is an Induction?
Research indicates that up to 20% of pregnancies end with an induction. Induction is when your healthcare provider artificially stimulates vaginal labor and delivery. Therefore, your medical team may recommend induction to maintain your and your child’s health.1
Your doctor could use one or more of the following methods for induction.2
- Using prostaglandins to soften your cervix. These are a group of lipids your body makes where tissue damage or infection occurs.3
- Giving oxytocin, also known as Pitocin, to start regular contractions.
- Manually rupturing your amniotic membrane.
Your healthcare team will evaluate the position of your baby and your medical needs to determine what method is best.
Reasons You Might Need a Labor Induction
Your doctor will assess your baby’s gestational age and health, your health, and the position they are in to decide whether to recommend induction. But if your or your baby’s health is at risk, induction may be the safest choice to prevent a traumatic birthing experience.
1. Preeclampsia or Eclampsia
Your doctor may induce your labor if you have preeclampsia or eclampsia. Preeclampsia is a health complication associated with high blood pressure or hypertension.4
What’s more, it can cause:
- Changes in vision
Moreover, uncontrolled preeclampsia can develop into eclampsia, a severe health complication associated with seizure activity, and these conditions can cause heart disease, kidney disease, placenta abruption, and stroke. So, your doctor may decide that induction is the safest choice based on your symptoms and blood tests. While an induction may not be your first choice as a birthing experience, it may be the safest way to start your new life with a healthy little one.5
2. Placental Abruption
Your placenta attaches to the wall of your uterus to provide food and oxygen to your baby. However, placental abruption is when your placenta is no longer completely connected to your womb. But your baby may struggle to grow and breathe without access to your placenta. And in some cases, it may cause stillbirth.6
This condition also causes heavy maternal bleeding as your blood vessels continue to try to feed your baby. In addition, this puts you at risk of hemorrhaging and death.7
Your birthing team may recommend induction if your or your baby’s health is at risk. If you and your baby are stable and healthy, they may continue to monitor you closely to determine if induction is necessary.
3. Maternal Hypertension
Hypertension means your blood pressure is over the expected range, 120/80 mm Hg. Research indicates that 10% of pregnancies end with an induction caused by high blood pressure. Uncontrolled hypertension can lead to preeclampsia, placental abruption, and deadly eclampsia.4,1
Hypertension can cause decreased blood flow to you and your baby. It can affect your organs, including your brain, uterus, and kidneys. If your uterus is affected, it may impact your baby’s ability to get food. Your doctor may induce labor if you’re at risk of developing complications caused by hypertension.8
The medical term oligohydramnios describes low levels of amniotic fluid.
Oligohydramnios reduces the amount of food and oxygen your baby receives from you. Your baby will struggle to thrive in your womb without the proper environment.9
Low amniotic fluid may cause:
However, low amniotic fluid won’t always end with an induction. If you are in the first half of your pregnancy, your doctor may recommend an amnioinfusion to increase the fluids in your womb. If you’re later in your pregnancy, your doctor may recommend induction.
5. Premature Rupture of Membranes
Current research suggests only 3% of pregnant people experience a premature rupture of membranes. When you rupture your membranes, your amniotic sac bursts or leaks to prepare for labor. This fluid-filled pouch helps your baby grow, controls their temperature, and prevents infection. A premature rupture of membranes means your amniotic sac has torn and is leaking before 37 weeks.10
With your sac broken, your baby is at risk of developing an infection. Infection in your newborn could cause lasting effects or even death. Your healthcare team will consider your baby’s developmental stage to determine if labor induction is necessary.11,12,13
6. Diabetes Mellitus or Gestational Diabetes
Your doctor may also induce labor if you have diabetes mellitus or gestational diabetes. Diabetes is a health condition that causes erratic blood sugar levels. Your body may struggle to break down carbohydrates for energy.14
Diabetes can cause stillbirth or fetal death. To prevent this devastating complication, your doctor may analyze your baby’s overall well-being, gestational age, and risk factors to determine if induction is the safest choice for your family.
Macrosomia is another complication caused by diabetes. If your baby has macrosomia, they are larger than the average birth weight of between 5 pounds, 8 ounces, and 8 pounds, 13 ounces. Traumatic births are more common in larger newborns. You may need a C-section to accommodate your baby’s size if you carry them to full-term, or your healthcare team may induce your labor early.15,16
7. You are Past Your Due Date
If your due date has passed, your doctor may recommend induction. Most pregnancies last about 40 weeks, but a late-term pregnancy lasts from 41 to 42 weeks, while a post-term pregnancy lasts longer than 42 weeks.
Most pregnant people who are post-term give birth to healthy babies, but a small percentage may experience the following complications:17
- Decreased oxygen to your baby
- Post maturity syndrome
Your newborn’s health, along with your health, is your medical team’s priority. Your healthcare team may recommend induction if they suspect a natural birth may compromise your or your baby’s well-being.
8. Rh factor
You may have heard of the Rh factor, a protein in some people’s red blood cells. If you don’t have the Rh-factor protein, but your baby does, your body may recognize your baby’s blood as a threat. So your immune system ramps up to protect itself and makes antibodies to attack unfamiliar blood.18
This can be a severe condition for your baby. Rh-incompatibility can cause:
- Fetal death
- Fetal anemia
- Jaundice in your baby at birth
If your baby develops severe anemia, its red blood cells are attacked faster than they can make new ones, preventing it from getting the oxygen they need to thrive. When this happens, your doctor may recommend an induction to protect your newborn.
9. Maternal Infection
Some infections threaten your health and can have lasting effects on your child, so a doctor may recommend induction for certain infections depending on how close you are to your due date.19,20
Some common infections that may warrant an induction are:
- Bacterial vaginosis
If you have an infection in your womb, it may spread to your baby or cause a traumatic birthing experience. This can not only cause a traumatic birth, but it can also compromise your ability to pass on nutrients to your baby. The last thing you want during your delivery is a life-threatening complication for you or your baby.
Your healthcare team may recommend induction when the benefits of induced labor outweigh the risks of natural birth because your health and your newborn are at the forefront of this decision. An induction creates a safer alternative by considering you and your baby’s unique health status because an infection, medical conditions, or blood incompatibilities may threaten your child’s well-being. Or your baby may be sailing past their due date. Labor induction is a deviation from your well-developed plan, but it can be the intervention that helps you live a long, healthy life with your child.