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Inducing Labor

Elective inductions, or those that are performed for non-medical reasons, have become one of the most frequently performed medical procedures for women in the United States. However, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American College of Nurse Midwives discourage elective inductions, as do virtually all textbooks and most research. Studies support the use of medications to begin labor only in situations where continuing the pregnancy presents a clear health risk to either mother or baby. In addition, a recent study conducted by Dr. Barbara P. Yawn and colleagues from the Mayo Clinic and the Olmstead Medical Center in Rochester, Minnesota concluded that induction increases the risk to both the mother and infant.

    Attempts to induce labor don't always succeed; many fail and the mother must then undergo a c-section delivery. C-sections performed after a failed induction are associated with higher rates of complications, infection, and longer hospital stays. Induced labors have higher rates of fetal distress and more often require the use of forceps, stricter bed rest, restriction of food and fluids, and more frequent monitoring of the baby's and mother's vital signs. Labors are often longer and women get epidural anesthesia more frequently, suggesting that induced labors are more painful.

    Under certain circumstances, a woman should not attempt to have her labor induced and instead should deliver by c-section. You should not have your labor induced if:

    • Tests indicate the baby is in distress or can't tolerate contractions.

    • You have placenta previa.

    • The baby is in a breech position.

    • You have had more than two c-sections or certain other kinds of uterine surgery, such as a myomectomy to remove fibroids.

    • You are carrying triplets or more.

    • You have an active genital herpes infection.

    • You have a cord prolapse. This is when a loop of the umbilical cord has poked through the cervix. During labor, the cord could become compressed and the baby's oxygen supply cut off.

    Labor induction is a controversial procedure and you should learn all the facts, discuss it with your doctor, and weigh the risks and benefits before deciding to induce labor.


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