Induction of Labour: Important things to know

For many mothers having a natural birth is a dream. Despite all the pain, they find the experience rewarding and empowering. Mothers with low-risk pregnancies choose natural birth to avoid possible risks and be in charge of their birthing journey. Chances of natural birth increase if a mother gets into labour spontaneously.

However, birthing is not always straightforward. What if a woman needs early delivery either because of medical complications or if her baby is not growing appropriately before spontaneously setting into labour? Does that shut down the chances of having a normal birth? Is a caesarean section the only option for her? The answer is ‘no.’ Induction of labour comes to the rescue in such cases.

Labour Induction

What is the Induction of Labour?

Labour induction is the process of artificially prompting the uterus to contract during pregnancy before labour begins on its own for a vaginal birth. Usually, the labour starts when a woman completes her term, that is, between 37 and 42 weeks of pregnancy.

Reasons for inducing labour

Some of the major reasons for the induction of labour are:

  • The woman is overdue (41 weeks and beyond)
  • Her water breaks without getting contractions
  • If the mother has medical problems like hypertension, gestational diabetes, or other medical complications.
  • The baby is not appropriately grown for that period.

Process of Induction of labour

Assessing the baby’s well-being before starting induction through a cardiotocograph is crucial. Once the process of inducing starts, the mother and baby will be closely monitored, and the labour progress will be periodically assessed. The process takes 24-48 hours, depending on the response. The primary purpose of Induction is to soften and dilate the cervix so that membranes around the baby can be broken.

Methods of Induction

    Either medical or mechanical methods are used to perform induction of labour.

  • Medical method: Medically induced labour is done by either placing pessary in the vagina or gel in the cervix. Oxytocin or Pitocin are given intravenously to induce labour or strengthen the contractions.
  • Mechanical method: In the mechanical process, a Foley catheter is placed in the cervix that causes the cervix to dilate. Then it is inflated with normal saline/ distilled water. Foley bulb induction is a safe way to promote cervical dilation in pregnancy when required.

If the cervix does not dilate sufficiently using one method, other methods may be used. However, the chances of vaginal birth decrease as the number of procedures required for induction increases. A caesarean section is performed if one/ all methods fail (that is, there is no progress of labour) or if any risk factors develop.