While natural childbirth is still the norm in Australia, it is becoming increasingly common these days to help the process along with labour induction.
Labour is ‘induced’ when it is started artificially, and this process is most often suggested by healthcare practitioners when the risks of a prolonged pregnancy outweigh the risks of delivery.
Why is Labour Sometimes Induced?
There are many good reasons why your doctor might recommend inducing labour:
- If your health or that of your baby would be put at risk if the pregnancy were to continue naturally
- If you have a medical condition that could put you or the baby at risk during labour; this can include illnesses or issues such as diabetes, epilepsy, heart conditions, high blood pressure, kidney disease or cancer
- If you experience a dysfunction of the placenta – for instance, if the placenta has begun to deteriorate or has pulled away from the inner wall of the uterus, immediate delivery may be necessary
- Your water has broken but contractions haven’t started after a certain period of time, which can put both you and your bub at a high risk of infection
- You have abnormal bleeding or an infection in the uterus
- You have a low level of amniotic fluid around the baby
- Your pregnancy has surpassed 41 weeks and the healthcare provider deems continued pregnancy to be too risky
Risks of Induction
Thankfully, medical technology has come a long way, and the chances of a successful delivery after an induced labour are high.
However, there are still some risks involved with inductions. If you do need to be induced, your doctor should discuss the risks with you and help you minimise any dangers.
Some of the most common induction risks include:
- Increased chance that a caesarean will be required (since induced labour is generally less effective than natural labour)
- Possibility of longer or more intense contractions during labour
- More distress for the baby due to decreased oxygen supply and a lower heart rate associated with stronger/longer contractions
- Continual foetal monitoring, which may restrict your movement (e.g. confined to the bed) or cause discomfort
- Increased chance of infection. Any induction method that involves sweeping the membranes, breaking water or placing catheters into the cervix increases the chances of you or your baby developing in infection
- Induction can over-stimulate the uterus and restrict proper contractions following labour, which can lead to excessive bleeding after delivery; if this occurs, your doctors will help you manage the problem
While the risks and complications of induction may be a concern, it is important to remember that many women are induced, have healthy labours and deliver happy babies!
Labour induction can be a fantastic option, especially if the health of you or your baby is at risk. By taking the time to review the options with your doctor, you can greatly reduce the risks of unnecessary induction and work towards having a safe and healthy delivery.
Unsure whether induction is right for your pregnancy?
Dr Matthew Wilson is an experience obstetrician and gynaecologist operating at Norwest Private Hospital. To book an appointment, contact our clinic on 02 9680 9669.