Sometimes there is a medical indication that supports delivering a baby before labor occurs naturally. This can include hypertension/pre-eclampsia, poor fetal growth, and poorly controlled diabetes. When this happens, labor is induced. Today, elective induction of labor is becoming more popular. However, since fetal lung maturity is important, the American College of Obstetrics & Gynecology recommends elective induction not be performed before completion of 39 weeks of gestation. I support this recommendation.
Labor is usually induced with Pitocin, a form of oxytocin, the natural hormone that causes uterine contractions. Pitocin is administered through an IV while your contractions and the baby’s heartbeat are continuously monitored to ensure the dose is not too high. Some patients may also need to have a low dose of cytotec (misoprostol) the evening prior to receiving Pitocin.
Active labor can be very painful, whether induced or natural. If the dose of Pitocin is higher than necessary, the contractions may be more painful. This is why it is imperative to carefully monitor your contractions and the baby’s heartbeat during induction. The use of an epidural or other pain medication may minimize any increase in pain from induced labor.
The risks to both mother and baby can be minimized by careful monitoring and quick response from nurses and physicians. Since women who have previously had a cesarean section are at greater risk during labor induction, they must have a very detailed discussion with their physician prior to the use of labor stimulants.