When your care provider suggests an induction of labor, it is best to go into the experience as prepared as you can be. One part of that is knowing what to expect. You always deserve to be informed and understand why certain decisions are being made about your and your baby’s healthcare. What follows are six questions you can ask your doctor or midwife before labor induction.
What are the reasons for induction? Usually your care provider suggests an induction when it becomes clear that it will be safest—for mom, baby, or both—for baby to continue growing outside your body rather than inside. Some reasons for induction include some cases of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, advanced maternal age, and if baby’s growth slows down in the womb. Recent research also suggests that inducing in the 39th week of pregnancy might also have benefits, though the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has not changed their recommendations based on the new research. This blog post goes into even more detail about possible reasons that your care provider might suggest labor induction.
When would my induction happen? You might show up to an appointment with your care provider and learn that you need an immediate induction or that you need to report for your induction within the next few days. Inductions can also be scheduled weeks in advance when you have a known medical condition, such as cholestasis, but your doctor wants your baby to be of a certain gestational age before he or she is born. This question is also related to the next question.
Is it safe to wait? Sometimes the reasons for induction are clear, but they may be less so. Babies generally do better the longer they can grow in the womb, which gives their lungs more time to develop, though this is not always the case. Ask your doctor what his or her reasons are for recommending induction now. If you do not understand the given reasons, keep asking questions until you do.
How will I be induced? There are lots of choices for induction methods, and what your doctor or midwife suggests will depend on your particular case. You might experience mechanical dilation, where a small balloon called a Foley catheter is inserted into your cervix and then gradually inflated to help your cervix open. Surgical induction, such as membrane stripping or artificially rupturing membranes, is also a possibility. Cervical ripening agents, which are drugs that help your cervix soften that are usually administered vaginally or straight to the cervix, might also be on offer. Finally, you might receive a drug called Pitocin intravenously, which is the synthetic version of the hormone oxytocin and helps stimulate your uterus to contract. These methods can be used alone or in combination with each other.
What are the implications, risks, and benefits of the planned methods? If your doctor or midwife suggests certain methods of induction over others, it is a good idea to ask what the implications of those methods are, and also whether there are risks that you should be aware of. It is also okay to ask whether any methods carry benefits as compared to other methods. For instance, some cervical ripening agents occasionally cause maternal side effects, such as nausea and diarrhea. While these side effects can be well-managed in a hospital setting, it might be nice to be prepared for experiencing them during your induction. Plus, some labor induction methods can affect the baby, too, and it does not hurt to ask about how your baby might be impacted.
Is it possible for me to have the kind of birth I want after an induction? Maybe you have questions about whether or when you can get an epidural after your induction. Or perhaps you would like to try to have your baby without pain medication, and you are concerned about how an induction will affect that desire. You might also have questions about how induction could influence the decision to have a cesarean or surgical birth. Your care provider should be able and willing to speak to all of your concerns, and it might be reassuring to know many people have successful inductions and feel good about their birth experience.