An overview of induced labour

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What is induced labour?

Typically, labour in women starts between the 37th and 42nd weeks of pregnancy. During this timeframe, the cervix loosens and begins to open, and then you experience contractions and your water breaks. For induced labour, the process is artificially stimulated. Your gynaecologist may mechanically open your cervix or use medicine to initiate your contractions.

Differences between natural labour and induced labour

In natural labour, contractions develop slowly, but in induced labour, the contractions begin quickly and tend to be stronger. Therefore, induced labour can be more painful, and you’ll most likely require some pain relief.

Recommended circumstances for labour induction

Generally, doctors recommend an induction when there is evidence of risk to the mother and/or baby. The specific situations are:

• When you have exceeded 41 weeks of pregnancy, therefore overdue
• When the placenta is not working as it should
• When there is an existing health condition such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or kidney problems.
• When the heart rate of your baby changes, the baby is making fewer movements, or is not growing well.
• When your waters break but your contractions fail to start naturally
• When you are having twins or multiples

The exceptions for induced labour

It’s important to note that this procedure is not open to everyone. Certain situations prevent a woman from undergoing it. They include:

• If you have previously had major abdominal surgery
• If you’ve had a caesarean section before
• If your baby is lying sideways
• If you have placenta praevia (the placenta develops concurrently with the baby and is attached to the lining of the uterus)
• If your baby is in a bottom-down position (breech)

What to expect during induced labour

Depending on how you respond to treatment, induced labour may take just a few hours or even 2-3 days. If you’re less than 37 weeks pregnant or experiencing your first pregnancy, the process may take longer.

Your healthcare provider will carry out regular checks on your health and that of the baby before deciding if induced labour is appropriate. If the induction fails, your health care provider may recommend a C-section.

Photo: by thevelvetbird licensed under Creative commons 4
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