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Inducing Labor

(continued)

How Is Labor Induced? continued...

Stripping the membranes. In this procedure, your doctor or midwife will use a gloved finger to gently separate the amniotic sac from the wall of the uterus. This releases hormones that can trigger contractions. You can get it done in your doctor's or midwife's office. It can be uncomfortable.

Afterward, you will probably go home to wait for contractions. You might have cramping and spotting.

Studies disagree about how well membrane stripping works. Considering that and the discomfort it causes, talk over the pros and cons with your doctor or midwife beforehand. 

Hormones. At the hospital, your doctor will give you hormones called prostaglandins to open the cervix and trigger contractions. If you’ve had a C-section in the past, your doctor will not use this treatment, because it raises the risk of uterine rupture.

Mechanical dilation. Another way your doctor or midwife triggers labor is with a balloon catheter. At the hospital, your doctor inserts a thin tube through your vagina into your cervical opening. Then the doctor uses water to inflate the balloon at the end of the tube, causing your cervix to expand.

Medications. The medicine Pitocin (oxytocin) can start contractions. You get this at the hospital through an IV tube in your arm. Your doctor or midwife starts with a small dose and gradually increases it until your contractions are strong and frequent enough for your baby to be born.

Some women go into labor and deliver within a few hours after induction. Others take 1 or 2 days to start labor.

If none of these methods starts your labor, you'll most likely need a C-section, especially if your water has broken.

What Are the Risks of Inducing Labor?

Generally, inducing labor is safe, but there are risks:

Higher risk of a C-section. If induction doesn't work, your doctor might decide to switch to a C-section instead.

Longer hospital stay. If you're induced, you'll be in the hospital longer during labor and delivery. If you wind up needing a C-section after induction, your time in the hospital will be even longer.

Increased need for pain medicine. Inducing labor might cause contractions to come on stronger and more often than they would naturally. You're more likely to need an epidural or another medicine to manage the pain.

Increased risk of infection. Breaking the amniotic sac can lead to infection if you don't deliver within a day or two after induction.

Health problems for your baby. Women who are induced often have babies born a little early -- between the 37th and 39th weeks. Early babies can have problems with breathing and other things. They might have a higher risk of long-term developmental problems.

Complications during delivery. Induction, especially with medications, might not be safe for women who’ve had a previous C-section or other surgery to the uterus. They have a higher risk of uterine rupture. Intense contractions also cause the placenta to detach from the wall of the uterus, called placental abruption. Both of these conditions are serious but rare, even with induction.

If your doctor or midwife recommends induction, ask questions. You want to be absolutely sure that it's the best decision for your health and your baby's health.

WebMD Medical Reference

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