advice

having your baby induced


information about being induced for labour

As you near the end of your pregnancy, you will be eagerly awaiting the arrival of your baby and probably can't wait to finally hold the little person you have had in your womb for 9 months. But sometimes babies can be slow to arrive, and in this case, your midwife or doctor may recommend your baby be induced. Inducing labour involves helping the labour process using medical means.

Common reasons for inducing a baby include: passing the due date; waters breaking before contractions start; or developing a condition called pre-eclampsia (characterised by high blood pressure and protein in your urine).


when you pass your due date

Your doctor will have based your due date on the time of your last period or an ultrasound scan of the baby. Alternatively, if you know the date you conceived, the due date can be worked out from this.

This due date is only a rough estimation of when you will give birth. Although the average length of a pregnancy is 9 months, pregnancies last anything from 37-42 weeks.

Medical research suggests that the placenta does not function as well as it should after 41 weeks, and its functioning deteriorates with longer pregnancies. Many doctors, therefore, recommend babies should be induced if the pregnancy reaches 41 or 42 weeks.

waters break before contractions start

The 'waters' are the bag of fluid that protects your baby during its development in the womb. The waters have to break before a baby can be delivered, and, when they break, it is usually a sign of imminent delivery. Once your waters have broken, regular contractions usually start soon afterwards.

However, some women do not begin regular contractions until 1 or 2 days after their waters have broken. Once the waters break, your baby is exposed to the outside world and is at risk of infection. For the first day or two after your waters break, your doctor will probably give you antibiotics to protect against infection, after that it is likely that your doctor will recommend that the baby is induced.

pre-eclampsia

Pre-eclampsia is a condition that occurs in late pregnancy. Signs of pre-eclampsia include high blood pressure, protein in the urine, headaches, swelling to your extremities and face as well as stomach pain. Women with pre-eclampsia are advised to seek medical advice immediately. Pre-eclampsia can develop into HELLP syndrome and eclampsia, conditions that put both your health and your baby's health at risk. Your doctor will probably want to ensure your baby is born as soon as possible, either through induction or Caesarean section.

medical methods of induction

Each hospital has its own protocols for inducing pregnancy. The method used for inducing a baby and the time when the baby will be induced varies according to the hospital. If you have any questions, ask the midwife or doctor at the hospital.

Pessaries containing prostaglandin gel (a naturally-occurring substance in the body) are the simplest method of inducing a baby. Pessaries are placed in the cervix, softening the cervix and successfully induces labour in around half of all women it’s given to. This method, however, can take some time to induce the baby, sometimes up to 2 days.

Waters are broken forcibly. If you have had a few contractions and your cervix has begun to open, it is possible for your doctor or midwife to insert an instrument and nick the bag containing the protective fluid around your baby. Once the waters have been broken, strong contractions usually follow.

A syntocinon drip is usually used if a previous attempt at inducing your baby has not worked properly. The drip is put in your arm and delivers a gradually increasing amount of oxytocin (a hormone that induces the womb to contract). The amount of oxytocin given is gradually increased to mimic the gradual build-up of the hormone that would occur naturally in the body prior to labour.

inducing labour the natural way

As you approach your due date, there are several things that you can do to encourage the birth process. Women may consider trying these methods just before their due date. However, before trying any of these methods, talk to your doctor to ensure there is no medical reason why you should not attempt them.

Have sex with your partner. Before labour can begin, your cervix has to soften. Exposing your cervix to prostaglandins helps this softening process occur, and semen is a rich source of prostaglandins. If your pregnancy has reached around 40 weeks, you may be able to trigger labour by exposing your cervix to prostaglandins through having sex several times over a couple of days.

Have an orgasm because it can induce labour. If you don't feel like having sex, get your partner to try massaging particular areas of your body, such as your breasts or clitoris, to stimulate you sexually.

Stimulate your nipples to encourage your body to release the hormone oxytocin, which stimulates your womb to contract.

If it is necessary to have your baby induced, don't worry. It won't mean an increased risk of complications, nor will it affect your baby. It just means your baby is feeling a little too comfortable in your womb and needs some coaxing to come out into the world!