If your due date has come and gone and you're still waiting to give birth, you may need to have labour induced. Likewise, if you're suffering from certain conditions or there's concern about your baby, birth induction may be required. But how is this done and what's it like?
The process of starting labour artificially is what's called birth induction. The point at which its offered various from hospital to hospital and according to your personal circumstances, with some recommending it 10 days after your due date and others waiting for up to three weeks after. As well as being overdue, some of the other common reasons for needing induction are:
- If you have pre-eclampsia and the placenta may not be functioning properly.
- If your waters have broken, but the contractions haven't started.
- If there's concern that your baby isn't growing well or is kicking less.
- If you have genital herpes.
- If you have diabetes.
- If you've previously had a very fast labour that took you by surprise.
Induction MethodsThree main methods are used to induce birth - pessaries, breaking the waters and using a syntocinon drip.
PessariesIntravaginal prostaglandin, in the form of a waxy pessary or gel, is often placed in the vagina using a slimline applicator. This is done to help soften the cervix, so that it can open up and start the contractions going. For some women, one pessary does the trick, but others may need to have several. However, it doesn't work for everyone and another method may be needed.
After you've been given the pessary, the heartbeat of your baby will be monitored for a while to ensure he's not affected by the induction. Although it's an artificial way of bringing labour on, once this is done your labour experience should be relatively similar to how it would normally have been.
Breaking The WatersIf your waters haven't broken naturally, it's possible for the midwife to help them on their way. A long thin hook-like instrument is inserted and the bag of water can be gently opened, starting labour off. It doesn't always work in every case, especially if the cervix isn't already open, but if it does it can start off quite strong contractions. Thankfully, this method doesn't usually hurt and the experience of labour is similar to how it would be if it had started of its own accord.
Syntocinon DripSyntocinon contains an artificial form of oxtyocin, the hormone which helps your womb contract. The drip is put into your arm and gradually releases oxtyocin, mimicking the way in which it would have been produced if labour had started naturally.
If you're induced in this way, it can produce a different kind of labour experience. Many women find that syntocinon can cause contractions to become very strong and difficult to cope with. The baby's heartbeat needs to be monitored constantly, because of the strength of the contractions. Syntocinon is often used alongside the manual breaking of the waters, with the drip in place ready for when the waters have been broken.
Once these methods have been used and birth is induced, you'll be progressing onto the big step of actually giving birth!