Every mother wants her labour and childbirth to be a smooth sailing journey. A natural, intervention-free vaginal childbirth is the dream of every expectant mom. But, unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Induction is a key intervention that happens during childbirth. Induction does not mean that moms cannot have a vaginal childbirth. However, induction does not guarantee a vaginal childbirth. It is important to understand what induction is, how labour augmentation is different from induction and what the benefits and risks involved before making an informed decision.

What is induction?

Labour is meant to start on its own, naturally. Labour should begin when your baby’s lungs have matured enough that she can breathe safely on her own after birth, and when other hormonal changes are triggered that prepare your cervix to open and your uterus to push your baby out so the two of you thrive. However, sometimes, it doesn’t. Labour induction is the use of non-natural techniques, or, in simpler terms, giving the mother some external help to get the labour started.

What is augmentation?

Augmentation is sometimes incorrectly labeled as induction. If a woman is already in labour, but it’s progressing too slowly, her caregiver may recommend augmentation or speeding up of a labour.

Induction is the initiation of labour, while Augmentation is speeding up of a labour

Common Medical Reasons for Induction:

  • Post-date pregnancy: If your pregnancy goes beyond 42 weeks (some caregivers say 41 weeks), the risk of post-maturity increases and hence the mom may be induced.
  • Ruptured membranes: If a woman’s water breaks and labour doesn’t start on its own within 24 hours, she may be induced.
  • Lack of growth in the baby
  • Genital herpes
  • Illness in the mother
  • Fear of macrosomia (big baby)

Elective Induction Reasons:

  • Convenience for the caregiver’s call schedule
  • Convenience for the family’s schedule
  • Discomfort in late pregnancy

Reasons to think carefully before requesting or agreeing to induction:

  • Induction leads to more medicalized birth, with IV fluids and continuous Electronic Fetal Monitoring (EFM) restricting the mom’s movement
  • Induction may make contractions more painful than normal
  • Elective inductions are significant contributors to premature births
  • Induction doesn’t guarantee labour will start. If induction fails, a cesarean section typically is performed

There are certain cases where induction becomes the best option for the parent as mentioned in the beginning of the article ‘Common medicals reasons for induction’.

Self-help techniques for induction:

If caregivers say it is time to do an induction, you can try some self-help techniques. Always check with your doctor and get her approval before trying self-help techniques.

  • Walking
  • Sexual intercourse (If your water bag has broken, this is not recommended)
  • Nipple stimulation
  • Castor oil
  • Acupressure

Medical methods of labour induction:

  • Balloon Dilator (Foley catheter) – Cervical ripening
  • Stripping (or sweeping) of membranes
  • Artificial rupture of membranes
  • Synthetic prostaglandins as medication

It is important for parents to thoroughly discuss the options with the caregiver, check if they can wait for a day or two to see if labour begins on its own, and if not, what are the other ways to help labour begin. Parents-to-be need to understand why and when induction is required and how it is done and make informed decisions for the well-being of the baby and the mother.

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