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Health & Pregnancy

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A Few Words About Inducing Labor

The process of inducing labor involves stimulating the cervix to soften and dilate and the uterus to contract. Many high-risk pregnancies must be induced for the safety of the mother or baby, and many women ask to have their labor induced around thirty-eight weeks, primarily because they are too big, too tired, and too stressed about waiting for something to happen. This is not an acceptable reason for induction. Medical reasons, such as high blood pressure or diabetes, or if you are past your due date, are reasons for induction of labor.

If your cervix is not soft and starting to thin out and open, a prostaglandin preparation may be applied directly on your cervix, or a small tablet may be placed at the very back of your vagina. These will initiate the breakdown of the collagen that is keeping your cervix tightly closed. You will need to have an intravenous catheter, better known as an IV, in your hand or forearm. When your cervix is soft, thinning, and starting to open, an IV preparation containing the hormone oxytocin (Pitocin is the brand name) will be started. As the levels of oxytocin rise, your contractions will begin. Your nurse will continue to increase the amount of oxytocin until your contractions are strong, are two to three minutes apart, and last about sixty seconds. This combination will help dilate your cervix. Patience, perseverance, and pleasant thoughts will be a blessing right now.

Labor is divided into three stages. The first stage begins with the onset of contractions and the dilation of your cervix and ends with complete cervical dilation. This stage is further broken down into three phases: early, active, and transition. In early labor, your contractions are regular, but still quite far apart. Cervical dilation in early labor is from 0 to 4 centimeters. During the active phase of labor, your cervix will dilate from 4 to 8 centimeters. Transition is the shortest phase of labor, beginning when your cervix is about 8 centimeters. It usually takes less than two hours for complete dilation to occur once you have reached this point. The second stage of labor is the pushing stage where you push through to the birth of your baby. The third stage of labor is the delivery of the placenta.

In early labor, you probably won't need to breathe through your contractions in a focused way. However, you may want to try some relaxation breathing techniques before the pain becomes too strong. Begin and end every contraction with a deep, cleansing breath. When you breathe during a contraction, try using your belly muscles. Practice by putting your hand on your belly and letting it rise and fall with your breaths. This forces the muscles that instinctively tense with a contraction to relax. Some women find this method of breathing helpful throughout their entire labor. You may want to establish a visualization meditation during your contractions.

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