The early weeks of pregnancy are fragile—and confusing. Here, the answers to your questions.
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Labor is a complicated process and it’s not so easy to get it started in a way that won’t potentially cause some harm to you or the baby. These days, the most common method of induction is the use of the drug Pitocin. The blockbuster contractions it causes send the baby forcefully forward and decrease blood flow from the placenta; this can lead to fetal distress. Symptoms such as spikes in the baby's heart rate and the presence of meconium (the baby’s ﬁrst bowel movement) in the amniotic ﬂuid often get doctors to recommend a C-section.
The next most common method of induction is breaking the bag of waters. Once this happens, most doctors give you only 24 hours to deliver before recommending a C-section, even if your baby is not in distress; that's because there’s an increased risk of infection.
Some research indicates that when the baby’s lungs are mature, she releases a hormonal signal that begins contractions. So if birth commences artiﬁcially, is she fully ready to greet the world?
The quick progress of some induced labors can mean that not all aspects of the process are ready for the baby to arrive. If the cervix is completely dilated and the baby has descended low enough but has trouble maneuvering the last little bit, the doctor may need to use a vacuum or forceps to pull the baby out. This presents some risk to the baby's head and pretty much guarantees you are going to have a vaginal tear or an episiotomy.
For all these reasons, think carefully before you agree to being induced or having your labor augmented by Pitocin. Don’t let anyone rush you into this decision. Inductions are scheduled in advance, like some C-sections, which should allow you time to talk with your caregivers and your partner and weigh the beneﬁts and risks carefully before agreeing.
From the book Your Best Birth: Know All Your Options, Discover the Natural Choices, and Take Back the Birth Experience by Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein. Copyright (c) 2009 by Azzura Productions, Inc. and Barranca Productions. Reprinted by permission of Wellness Central, an imprint of Grand Central Publishing. All rights reserved.
To see a trailer or to download a copy of The Business of Being Born, go to www.thebusinessofbeingborn.com