To Induce or Not to Induce?

So you've made it to the 40 week mark—congratulations mama! But now where is that baby? Everyone is asking, you are ready to meet your baby, and you are probably so done being pregnant. And now you're midwife or doctor is giving you the option of inducing at so and so date. It's a lot to think about!

(*Full disclosure: I am only discussing optional inductions, not inductions that are considered medically necessary for reasons to save baby or mom, or to prevent possible injuries, illness or death if the pregnancy continues.  Always listen to the recommendations of your health care professional, ask questions, and get second opinions if you're not sure. I am not a medical professional, this post is based on research and anecdotal evidence.)

Induction has become increasingly common over the past two decades.  But that doesn't necessarily mean it is necessary medically or more beneficial than letting labor happen on its own.  Generally, labor is induced by an intravenous drug called Pitocin.  Pitocin is the synthetic version of oxytocin, a hormone women produce naturally.  When Pitocin is used to induce or speed up a labor that has "stalled", it can often set off a cycle of medical interventions. 

On Pitocin, it is common for contractions to come faster and harder, and sometimes more become intensely painful.  Mothers that may not have wanted to use pain medications during labor may often opt for them when Pitocin is used.  (Pain medication can then slow labor, which then requires more Pitocin, so on and so forth.) The increased intensity of the contraction can affect the baby by limiting the flow of blood to the placenta and fetus, sometimes causing the baby to go into distress. Once baby is in distress the doctors will want you to deliver as quickly as possible in order to stabilize the baby's heart rate—a leading reason to recommend or insist on a cesarean section. In fact, some studies have shown that the rate of induced labors that end in c-section and the rate of babies born of induced labors that need emergency neonatal care are both increased significantly.  

That being said, there is nothing wrong with choosing to have your labor induced.  Anyone that has been pregnant for 40 weeks can empathize with that want.  But there are also things you can start doing in the weeks leading up to your due date and past your due date that (unscientifically) may help move your labor along. If you want to avoid the rabbit hole of medical interventions, you should try to exhaust all your other options before choosing to induce chemically. 

So how do you induce labor without an IV?  Well there are literally no tried and true methods other than just waiting it out.  Baby will come when baby is good and ready! (And remember, due dates are strictly an estimate, and prone to some margin of error.)  But things you might try, in addition to your grandmother's list of "go-to's":

  • Acupressure/Acupuncture
  • Nipple stimulation
  • Sex 
  • Red Raspberry Leaf Tea 
  • Evening Primrose Oil
  • Squats

As always, speak to your health care professional before you decide to try any of these.  Red raspberry leaf tea and evening primrose oil aren't recommended before 36 weeks, and many acupuncturists won't treat you unless they've treated you before or know your full pregnancy history. Additionally, you should have penetrative sex if your water has broken.