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Inducing Labor

  • Inserting a prostaglandin gel or suppository into the vagina to ripen the cervix. This procedure alone will often begin labor; however it may also require the use of Pitocin, a synthetic form of oxytocin. Risks associated with this method include fever, diarrhea, possible hemorrhaging after birth, and fetal distress.

  • Using Pitocin, a synthetic form of oxytocin, intravenously in controlled amounts. Risks associated with this drug include an increased possibility of uterine rupture, increased likelihood of a fetal malpresentation or malposition, as well as an increased need for c-section delivery.

  • Nipple stimulation releases the body's own natural oxytocin. Some studies have found it to be effective in starting labor within 72 hours if your cervix is already ripe, but the method has not been well studied. You should not try this method at home because it can cause prolonged contractions that could stress your baby and depress his or her heart rate.

  • Walking naturally releases oxytocin.

  • Castor oil is a strong laxative and stimulating your bowels may cause some uterine contractions. However, studies have not shown it to be consistently effective and the resulting cramping and diarrhea may be an unpleasant way to begin your labor. There is also an increased risk of fetal distress and there have been cases when the castor oil causes the baby to pass meconium before birth.

  • Insertion of a Foley catheter into the cervix. The catheter has a very small balloon at the end of it which, when inflated with water, puts pressure on your cervix. This stimulates the release of prostaglandins, which then cause your cervix to open and soften. When your cervix begins to dilate, the balloon falls out and the catheter is removed.

  • Accupressure may help to induce labor. Some pressure points include the roof of your mouth, the webbing between your pointer finger and thumb, and about four fingerspaces above your ankle.

  • Herbs such as blue and black cohosh, goldenseal, squaw vine, red raspberry leaf have been used, mainly by midwives, for inducing labor. However, herbs vary in concentration, and their safety and effectiveness have not been proven. There have been cases of uterine rupture and intrauterine fetal stroke, as well as neonatal heart irregularities associated with the use of herbs to induce labor.

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