Physicians are inducing labor earlier and earlier. Is this a good idea? Learn why you shouldn’t induce labor too early.
By Danielle, contributing writer
Nearly every woman birthing in the United States has to worry about her birth provider pushing her into induction. After nine months of poking and prodding, 38 weeks comes along, and although it is normal for the baby to go yet another four weeks, the provider starts getting antsy about delivery and wants to induce labor.
The Induction Situation in the U.S.
Most women listen to their provider and get induced, unaware that it is arguably the first step to a domino effect of interventions that are not evidence-based, and do not provide a true benefit to mom or baby.
Let us not forget that the U.S. ranks the lowest in maternal mortality rates of all developed countries. That is, more women die in childbirth in the United States than any other highly developed country. So, maybe it’s time to rethink the way we do things, and not give blind trust to our obstetricians.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) notes that a woman who is healthy with a healthy baby, who has a first full-term (not yet!) pregnancy, and is only carrying one fetus, may request or be offered an induction at 39 weeks. Recent figures show that at least 30% of all deliveries are artificially induced.
What is induction and how is the due date calculated?
Before we move on, let’s understand what a due date is. A due date is not calculated based off of the mother’s date on conception. It is based off of a guessed ovulation date which may or may not be an accurate ovulation date for the woman. A due date, better named a “guess date,” may be two weeks earlier or two weeks later than the assumed date. Also, a mother and specific baby may take more or less time to grow, which is entirely normal and healthy. Labor induction is the use of medications or other methods to start (induce) labor.
A large study was done to analyze if 39-week induction actually improves birth outcomes. In this study, inducing labor at 39 weeks did not improve the primary outcome of death or serious complications for babies. It also reported that induction led to longer labors.
What are cons of early labor induction?
There are reasons that labor begins, even though the science is not settled on why. Early labor induction can cause harm to both the mother and the baby, such as:
- Longer labors
- Higher risk of uterine rupture
- Stress to the baby
- Underdeveloped lungs of the baby
- Failed induction
- Placental abruption (placenta detaches from the uterine wall, often leading to mother and baby death)
- More painful labors
- Further interventions, such as premature rupture of membranes, epidural, and cesarean section
Should you induce early, then?
Nature does know best. Your birth provider will be monitoring the baby’s heartbeat, and your health. After 42 weeks, you can take a fetal stress test to check on the baby and see if there are any contractions (and how baby handles them). If the mother and baby are healthy, there is no reason to even consider induction until 42 weeks at the earliest. Even then, there are natural ways to try to induce labor first (see below).
If there is clear fetal distress, it is time to consider an induction.
Are there natural ways to induce labor?
If, for some reason, you do need to induce your labor, and both you and baby are healthy, there are many natural and safer ways to induce, including:
- Nipple stimulation
- Spicy food
- Castor oil
Find a birth provider that is evidence based and listens to your choices. If there is no health concerns, an induction is usually not necessary.
Did your provider recommend induction?
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