So you are at the end of your pregnancy, and for some reason, your midwife or doctor has recommended that you should come into the hospital to try to get your labour started. This might be exciting (you will finally meet your baby!!) or maybe you are nervous if you are worried about your baby’s health or how the birth process will unravel. Surely if you have spent 5 minutes discussing this with a friend or on an online forum you will have heard and seen some confronting stories. So what exactly is different about inductions and what can you do to help make the process easier.
1. Inductions can take a long time to get going.
Thinking the day you are booked to come in for your induction is the day you will be handed a baby? Although it IS possible, it is unlikely that’s how things will go. Understanding what an induction actually involves can help make sense of this.
Before you are booked in for your induction your midwife or doctor may offer you a vaginal examination to asses how “ripe” or ready your cervix is for labour. A number of different factors determine this. It necessary for your baby to be quite low in your pelvis, your cervix to be soft, stretchy, forward enough and/or open enough to be able to break your waters. Depending on the outcome and how your body responds a number of following options may be offered.
- Something to help your cervix become soft and stretchy. A catheter may be placed in your cervix or a gel may be placed next to your cervix (sometimes both).
- An artificial rupture of your membranes (breaking your waters).
- A drip with artificial oxytocin (Syntocinon is commonly used in Australis, Pitocin used in the USA ). This is used to create contractions with the aim of opening your cervix and moving your baby down into your pelvis and through the birth canal. (Most of the time you would have your waters broken before this is started).
If that’s overwhelming just reading about, you can see how the experience might easily catch some women off guard. For even the most prepared people a day or two of “getting into” labour can be exhausting.
What you can do:
Simply being aware that this is a marathon and not a sprint can help you manage the stress of a longer induction.
Being well rested is ideal but not always practically possible, you may be offered mild pain relief in the early stages which could be the right thing for you if it helps save your energy for when things heat up.
Another option that some women find helpful is practising meditation, mindfulness or guided relaxation. These sorts of practices can help with mental resilience and keeping a positive outlook (a great skill for labour and for motherhood in general).
2. You are looked after very well. your entire labour.
I know this doesn’t sound terrible (and it really isn’t) however being under the watchful eye of a team of doctors and midwives for many women can be a bit overwhelming.
Humans are the only mammals to give birth outside our nest. This is important because Oxytocin (the love hormone), which helps cause contractions, is much easier to produce when we feel safe, loved and in a private setting. I’ve heard it said that the best environment to give birth in is the ideal environment to make love in (lights low, no interruptions and generally just one other person with you). This ‘nest like’ environment is pretty much the antithesis to a modern hospital setting, and when you are trying to jump-start these love hormones, having a friendly and well meaning doctor/midwife/tea lady popping in every half hour or so can really mess with your mojo.
What you can do:
Depending on where you are at the time of induction you may be in a shared or private room, but as much as possible making your space personalised and cozy will help. If you can bring in your own pillow, some pictures, some nice smells (essential oils are perfect either in a diffuser or as a massage oil) and sounds (over a speaker or headphones if you are in a shared space) will help flood your senses with familiar and positive signals. Having a partner or support person can help you feel empowered, particularly if you are needing to decide on/consent to a range of treatments. Other oxytocin boosters include; keeping the lights down, not too much unnecessary chatter, massages, kissing, hugging… A great rule of thumb is to think of what makes you so feel completely relaxed and “blissed out”.
3. You may just be fine.
I know. I just spent the past few hundred words telling you all the ways that you might find inductions challenging. Quite possibly anyone you have mentioned inducing labour too has given you a pitiful look and warned you of all manner of disaster that might befall you. But for a good number of women being induced is actually pretty manageable.
One of the reasons people worry about being induced is the fear that the intensity of labour will start hard and fast, unlike if your body was to do it spontaneously. Often this is not the case, (please ask questions and discuss with your midwife or doctor if this is what you are worried about). For example; many places have protocols when giving Syntocinon, to start things quite slowly, monitor you to see how your body is reacting, then slowly increase the dosage until a good number of contractions are occurring, for a long enough time, and allowing you a decent break in between.
What you can do;
Should you just prepare for the worst and hope for the best? No need, just stay mindful. Being in each moment and experiencing your own birth is going to be far more helpful than anticipating all manner of trouble, and then being caught off guard by a fast labour. All the suggestions in this article are just as useful in a spontaneous labour, so you might want to think about adding them to your mental toolkit for birth regardless of what your expectations are. Walk that labour labyrinth. Go with what you are given. Make the best choices you can with the information you have been given and keep moving forward.
Jennifer Hazi is a mother, midwife, educator and mentor in Sydney, Australia.
She is really passionate about women having voices and choices in maternity care and absolutely loves working alongside women and their loved ones during this time.
She teaches childbirth and parenting education online and in person, works clinically as a midwife and provides physical and educational support to families with new babies up to 3 months old.
Jen also speaks and writes regularly about childbearing, motherhood and transitioning to parenthood.
Find her at www.jenniferhazi.com