Most labours start naturally, but for various reasons, you sometimes need a helping hand.
This is known as induction, and around 1 in 5 mums go through it.
What’s an induction?
If you have an induction it means a doctor or midwife uses drugs or other techniques to kick start labour. Sometimes inductions are planned well in advance, and other times they come as a bit of a surprise. You might have an induction because:
- You have high blood pressure
- You have signs of preeclampsia
- Your baby measures very small or very big
- You’re overdue (over 42 weeks)
- Your baby has stopped growing
- Your waters have broken and nothing else happens for 24 hours
- Your baby has a health problem
- You have a health problem like diabetes or intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy.
You don’t have to be induced, it’s always your choice and you can chat through the pros and cons with your midwife or doctor.
What happens during induction?
The first thing your midwife or doctor will try is a membrane sweep where they pop their fingers inside your vagina and sweep around your cervix.
They’re trying to separate the membranes of the sac around your baby from your cervix, if they can do it there’s a release of hormones that can start your labour. It shouldn’t hurt but it can be a bit ouchy and you might bleed a bit. If this doesn’t do the trick you move to full-on induction.
You’ll go into the hospital on the maternity unit. After a few checks, the midwife or doctor will put a tablet (pessary) or some gel in your vagina. Hopefully, that starts contractions but it can take hours or days, they might even send you home for it to work.
Your contractions might start but if nothing happens after 6 hours it’s back to square one with the tablet or gel. If nothing has happened after that they might pop you on a drip to get things going. And yes, it can feel like it’s taking forever but it’s normal for not a lot to happen in the first 24-48 hours.
Your midwife or doctor might break your waters if your cervix is open enough. This is called as artificial rupture of membranes (ARM).
Does it hurt?
If you ask doctors and midwives they’ll say something like ‘it’s a bit uncomfortable’. But let’s have a reality check. You’re heavily pregnant, knackered and ready to get this baby out. And someone wants to go rooting around in you. So chances are it won’t feel like a day at the spa.
It’s also quite common for induced labour to hurt more than natural labour because you don’t always get the same slow build-up. If you’re going to be induced chat through your pain relief options beforehand.
It’s not working - what do I do now?
There’s a chance induction won’t work and if this happens you’ll chat through your options with the doc or midwife. Sometimes you can try induction again or opt for a C Section.
And if you’re induced it’s more likely you’ll need some help to deliver, either using forceps or suction.
What can I do to avoid induction?
It’s your choice to have an induction but you’re usually offered one because there are increased health risks to you or your baby if you carry on with your pregnancy.
There are no guaranteed ways to kick start labour at home, babies tend to come when it suits them and we’d avoid any supplements, castor oil and hot baths.
Found this helpful? Read: How do I prepare for my baby
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