My mother often shared to me her experience regarding how I was born. Until now, she always thinks about how fortunate she was to be able to bring me out into this world without complications. “I’m sure about this doctor. I’m two weeks past my due date and I still haven’t delivered my baby. I would like to have an induced labor,” my mother told her health care provider. After careful evaluation and monitoring, she went through an induced labor. True enough, I came out with signs of post-maturity, having long fingernails with wrinkled and parchment-like skin, yet healthy. Her doctor said had she waited a few more days, I might have already passed out meconium (baby’s first bowel) inside my mother’s womb, causing me to aspirate it and block my airways, and compromising breathing.

Birth induction is an artificial and intentional process of starting or speeding up labor. Aside from being overdue, it is also recommended when 1) your bag of water has broken but the contractions haven’t started yet; 2) if there is concern that your baby is not growing well or is kicking less; and 3) if you’re suffering from certain medical conditions such as diabetes and pre-eclampsia or high blood pressure, and uterine infection.

There are four existing methods of inducing labor- pessaries, stripping the membrane, breaking the bag of water, and oxytocin drip. However, before any of these methods is started, your health care provider needs to check if you are a good candidate for birth induction. The baby must lie in a headfirst position and antenatal testing must show that the baby can tolerate labor.

Pessaries are man-made prostaglandin gels or waxy chemicals inserted into the vagina to help soften the lowermost part of the uterus which is the cervix, and initiate uterine contractions. Responses to pessaries vary between individuals. Some women may need several pessaries, while others go into labor with just one application. Others don’t even actually get contractions at all.

A bit natural and conservative way of inducing labor is by stripping the membranes that connects the amniotic sac to the uterine wall. The doctor will insert a sterile gloved finger into the vagina and move her finger back and forth along the membrane. In doing so, the woman’s body will release natural prostaglandin hormones, which has the same action as the pessaries.

If your cervix is partially thinned out and dilated and the fetal head has descended close to the cervix, your doctor can break your waters by making a hole in the amniotic sac using a long thin hook-like instrument. This can start off contractions but may vary from individual to individual.

The last method and also commonly done in inducing labor is by starting syntocinon drip to the expectant mother. Syntocinon is an artificial form of the hormone oxytocin that can cause uterine contractions. The artificial hormone is incorporated into the intravenous fluid that flows into to the woman’s veins in her arms. The drip will be started off with a slower rate and will be gradually increased to increase the dose of the hormone until a strong and frequent contraction is attained.

In general, inducing labor is safe. The contractions may become stronger and more frequent than they normally would in spontaneous labor, but it doesn’t usually hurt as much. One thing very important to take note though is that once labor is inducted, the baby’s heartbeat will be closely monitored until the mother finally gives birth. This is because once the contractions are too strong and frequent, the baby’s heart beat may slow down. In this case, the rate of the syntocinon drip for example, has to be adjusted every now and then, depending on the tolerability of the baby to the contractions. Furthermore, birth induction is also contraindicated for women who have had a previous C-section or other surgery to the uterus, for fear of uterine rupture.

The decision to induce labor is a shared decision made by you and your health care provider. Be sure you know why you are being induced and how it will be done. In most cases, birth induction saves the lives of many babies. Talk to your health care provider about what plan makes the most sense for you.