The early weeks of pregnancy are fragile—and confusing. Here, the answers to your questions.
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Over the past 10 years, more and more women — for a myriad of reasons —have had some of the unknowns taken out of the labor and delivery process by having labor induced. In fact, the number of induced deliveries has roughly doubled in the past decade. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, the rate of inductions increased from 9 percent in 1989 to 18 percent in 1997.
When you're feeling huge and miserable and rolling over in bed requires intervention, scheduling an induction like a hair appointment seems like a fabulous idea. But there's a lot to consider before you consent. That's because experts agree on the large role failed inductions play in the ever-increasing Cesarean section rate—a record high of 31 percent in 2006.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists reports that 20 percent to 40 percent of labors are induced—a number that, along with Cesarean-section rates, has doubled in the last decade. In fact, failed inductions play a large role in not only the ever-increasing Cesarean-section rate, they're also linked to delivery of newborns who have to be admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) because of respiratory or other problems.
For low-risk women, common hospital practices such as labor induction do not improve health outcomes for mothers or babies and often cause harm. Electronic fetal monitoring (used in more than 85 percent of U.S. hospital births), nonemergency Cesarean sections, routine use of IV fluids, amniotomy (breaking the bag of waters), withholding food and water and episiotomy were all found to have adverse effects on mother, baby or both.
You might be referring to a recent report that intercourse hastens labor in full-term pregnancies and reduces the need for inductions. But another study, published just weeks earlier, showed completely opposite findings. "As these studies demonstrate, we still aren't sure if intercourse triggers labor," says Sean S. Daneshmand, M.D., clinic director of maternal-fetal medicine at the San Diego Perinatal Center at Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women, who wasn't involved in either study.
In early June of this year, a Northern California mother-to-be faced a fiendish dilemma. Mindful that the Bible's Book of Revelation described 666 as the mark of the devil, she arranged to have her labor induced before June 6, lest her son be doomed to spend a lifetime responding "6-6-06" every time anyone asked him his birth date.
And for those who might roll their eyes and say "only in California," consider this: Earlier in the year, a Pittsburgh Steelers fan asked that her labor be induced to make sure she'd be able to watch the Super Bowl.