As your due date gets closer, you might be picturing different scenarios of how you’ll go into labor. A contraction that has you gasping in pain? A dramatic splash when your water breaks? Or just a sudden backache? It might be something in between. One scenario that you might not have pictured is what happens if you need to be induced.
In this follow-up to last week’s blog, “When and How is Labor Induced?“, we’ll share how you can best prepare for induction of labor. Labor induction can be a positive experience, even though it might mean having a different birth experience than the one you’d wanted. So, give yourself some time to process the emotions you might be feeling about this change in plans. Also, having information about what a labor induction involves will help you get ready for the big day. Understanding the process and having practical expectations are crucial to helping you prepare.
Discuss Your Options
There is more than one method to induce labor, and not every method is right for every woman. Here are some circumstances that affect the choice of induction method:
- Your conditions (such as VBAC status, pre-existing complications, whether you’ve already had a baby, etc.)
- Conditions inside your uterus (your baby’s position, amniotic fluid volume, etc.)
- Your preference
- Your doctor’s preference
- The reason for induction
If your cervix needs ripening as part of your induction method, your doctor will let you know the most appropriate option. This probably will either be the use of mechanical dilation of your cervix with a balloon catheter or by taking a prostaglandin medication.
To start contractions, your doctor will probably recommend using Pitocin. This medication is a synthetic version of oxytocin, which is a hormone that triggers labor contractions naturally. If your doctor starts you on Pitocin, it will be given continuously through an IV until your baby is born.
Talk with your healthcare practitioner about your birth preferences. Doing so will help them determine the best way to respect your preferences while performing a labor induction.
Get Familiar With Your Cervix
After your doctor has recommended that you be induced, and you’ve signed off on the idea, it will help to learn a bit about your cervix. Your healthcare professional will perform a vaginal exam and calculate a Bishop Score. This score estimates how likely an induction is to bring on labor. That’s because it’s easier to get a cervix to open and labor to begin when the cervix is ready for birth. Your doctor will evaluate your cervix on:
- Dilation (openness)
- Consistency (firmness)
- Effacement (thickness)
- Position (which way is it angled)
- Station (how low the baby’s head is in your pelvis)
Each bullet point above is given a score of 0, 1, 2, or 3 based on an examination. The greater the number, the more likely your cervix will open easily, and labor will begin. If your Bishop Score is low, your doctor may recommend performing treatments to ripen and prepare your cervix. These treatments will help your cervix work better with other methods of induction.
Keep Your Due Date in Mind
Usually, the closer you are to your due date, the simpler it is to get labor going. That’s because your body (and your baby!) are closer to being ready for natural labor to start.
When considering inducing labor, your doctor will keep your due date in mind. If your due date is unknown, or you’re not at least 39 weeks along, the benefits of an early delivery will be carefully balanced with the risks.
If you’re thinking about an elective induction of labor, your doctor will probably recommend waiting until you are at least 39 weeks.
Try to Be Flexible
While you may be excited to meet your baby, you may also be worried about labor induction. Make sure to share your concerns with your doctor. What has helped other women is talking about the possible scenarios and options. Labor induction is not an exact science, so not every method will work the same way on every woman.
It will help if you can try to remain flexible and have a go-with-the-flow attitude at the hospital. But that doesn’t mean that you have to give up on everything in your birth plan. You still have choices.
What to Ask Before Being Induced
- What are the risks and benefits of each method?
- How long would we try this before trying something else?
- What happens if this approach doesn’t work? What’s the next step?
- Will this constant fetal monitoring be required?
- Will I be able to move around?
- How many times have you performed this procedure?
- Will it hurt? What are your options for pain relief?
Labor induction isn’t always fast. So make sure to load your phone, laptop, or iPad with movies, shows, and books to help the time pass. If you like to journal, pack a journal to jot down your in-the-moment labor and delivery thoughts. Create a playlist of music filled with your favorite calming music. And remember to pack headphones (or earbuds), chargers, and comfortable, loose clothing.
If the induction continues longer than 12 to 24 hours, you might let your partner get some fresh air. Let your partner pack their own bag for the hospital, so your bored induction partner doesn’t turn into an annoying labor and delivery partner! Tell them to pack a good pillow and some snacks (nothing smelly!)
While some labor inductions happen quickly, others take much longer. Some women start induction and do not have their baby for a day or two. This depends on the methods tried, your cervix’s condition, and how you and your baby handle labor. In fact, you might find yourself bored at the beginning of induction. Having a team of supporters will help make this time tolerable!