Birth Experience

Birth Management & Interventions – Induction

12 Comments 02 March 2010

What is the Induction of Labor?

Induction is the forced initiation of labor through synthetic oxytocin.

One in five hospital births are reported as induced labors.

In 1999, the Green Journal review reported three out of four inductions were elective, meaning they are requested by the mother. That means 75% of all induced labors are not for medical reasons. Research shows there an increase of cesarean section rates for induced patients.

Induction can happen several ways.

One can be induced by a synthetic oxytocin such as Pitocin, by a practitioner breaking your bag of waters, a gel, or other natural methods such as acupuncture, acupressure, blue/black kohash and by drinking castor oil.

The most common drug used to induce labor is Pitocin.

Pitocin plays a factor in about 60% of labors today. It is commonly administered through IV drip which contains women to the hospital bed (no showers/baths or walking around). Through iv, the amount of Pitocin entering your blood stream can be increased and decreased.

Pitocin causes contractions to become stronger and closer together. The increased intensity of contractions may lead to the use of epidural aesthesia and/or cesarean section.

“Think of the dichotomy: pitocin is administered to speed up labor, but the increased level of pain requires medication that slows it down. In addition, pitocin often has no effect on cervical dilation even though the contractions are much stronger.”Amy Kreger, Associated Content

Elective Induction, Medical Induction & Augmentation

Medical induction is used when the birth of the baby is considered necessary for the health and well being of mother and child.

Reasons for medical induction include fetal distress, pre-clampsia, and uterine infection.

For instance, if a woman’s water has broken, induction with induction may be recommended after 12 hours if labor has begun. With home birth midwives, 24-48 hours is the recommended window including supervising mom and baby’s vitals (blood-pressure, heart-rate, fever).

Another reason for medical induction may be if baby is past due (between 40-42 weeks or more). This increases complications due to baby’s size in the uterus, placenta calcification, and increases the risk of stillborn.

Elective induction is the induction of labor with no medical indication to do so, but by choice, commonly referred to as “scheduling” birth.

*please note: the Pitocin label reads…”Pitocin is not indicated for elective induction of labor.”

Augmentation is a term used to speed up labor once contractions have begun naturally. Again, Pitocin is widely used to augment labor.

“Your practitioner will start you off with a small dose (of Pitocin) and gradually increase it until your uterus responds appropriately. How much you’ll need depends on the quality of your contractions so far, how sensitive your uterus is to the drug, how much your cervix is dilated, and how far along you are in your pregnancy. As a rule, you’re shooting for three to five contractions every ten minutes.”Ann Linden, CNM – Baby Center

Induction risks

Induction with the help of Pitocin may start, speed up and intensify labor, increasing the chance that pain medication might be used.

The use of forceps and vacuum assisted deliveries is also increased.

Additionally, the rate of cesarean section is also raised by two or three times in the presence of induced labors.

These are some of the risks of Pitocin to Mom as stated on the label:

  • Hypertensive episodes
  • Uterine rupture
  • Cardiac arrhythmia
  • Pelvic hematoma
  • Postpartum hemorrhage
  • Vomiting

BEWARE of Cytotec! The drug Cytotec has been used to induce labor but is not approved by the FDA for this use. Side effects of the drug include uterine rupture, severe bleeding, hysterectomy, and/or maternal and fetal death.

For baby, Pitocin can cause:

*this is a controversial claim, as some say this drug cannot pass through the placenta

  • Neonatal jaundice
  • Permanent CNS or brain damage
  • Neonatal seizures
  • Premature ventricular contractions
  • Bradycardia

Natural Induction

If one must induce due to medical reasons, it is my personal advice to suggest natural forms of induction first. Taking a natural remedy is like giving your body a little push or an “encouraging word” as if to say, time to get things going!

Natural forms of induction include:

Acupuncture, Acupressure, Red Raspberry Leaf Tea, Evening Primrose Oil, nipple stimulation, exercise, sex, *Blue Cohosh,  and *Castor Oil.

These natural forms of initiating labor call upon the body’s own resources to begin the laboring process. It is, overall, a much safer process with less complication and likelihood of intervention, because the woman’s body and hormones are reacting naturally.

*use only under supervision

See Natural Induction for more information.

Your Comments

12 Comments so far

  1. Stephanie says:

    It is really wonderful you are getting this out there. I hope it inspires women to let the baby decide when to come!

    In addition to the dangers of Pitocin use, I think a compelling reason to refuse is the lack of oxytocin your body then produces…both mom and baby BENEFIT from receiving larger amounts of this love hormone that they just don’t get with synthetics. Pitocin may start contractions, but it doesn’t flood your body (and baby’s)with hormones designed for bonding, social recognition and trust!

    There is also a theory floating out there that connects Pitocin use with the rise of autism cases…

  2. Hannah says:

    I can see the concern with Pitocin.

    In response to a comment made:
    “Pitocin may start contractions, but it doesn’t flood your body (and baby’s)with hormones designed for bonding, social recognition and trust!”

    -While this might be the case it is not absolute truth.

  3. Wynnae says:

    The white text on comments is almost impossible to read. Please consider changing it.

    My 1st home birth labor stalled after 12 hours of moderate labor. (I should add my water breaking is what started labor and I was strep positive so length of labor was important to keep in check) My midwife had me trying all sorts of things like walking up the stairs sideways, sex, etc. When those didn’t work she has me make a castor oil milkshake using the highest fat icecream I could find (Haggen Das). This worked like a charm and kick started my labor within an hour. My total labor was 27 hours. Baby was born at home, healthy and hungry!

    I’ve heard lots of people say that castor oil doesn’t work- the key may be to have it with the high fat so that it gets into your system rather than just passing through and giving you the poops!

  4. t.gray says:

    i birthed one baby with the presence of pitocin in my system and one without; i can honestly say that my hormones felt equally the same and i bonded on the same intimate level with both babies so the statement made about pitocin influences hormones is not an entirely true blanket statement for all individuals. love the pieces, k. the site is really coming together. feel proud.

  5. Jenny says:

    just questions:
    I was terrified to use blue cohosh or castor oil b/c the herbal book I had said it could create “violent” labors- I was not having a hospital birth so I didn’t even think about the possibility of pitocin but reading the warnings listed here that sounds pretty “violent” as well. I like to hear the castor oil with ice cream idea- a lot of women say they just get the runs….the ice cream sounds like a good combo.
    so if anyone has used these two herbal rememdies I would like to hear information about their experiences.

  6. Rachel says:

    Just a real quick note on caster oil. It can and does start labor, but I have seen complications with it also that are similar to pitocin, ie. contractions that are too strong and too close together and can lead to other problems.

    I have personally seen it happen. Any time you use anything, it should be for a good reason and with someone who knows how to monitor the mom and babies safety. Like anything in birth, sometimes it is a matter of weighing the risks. Personally, I think a woman should be monitored closely with blue cohosh and castor oil.

    I would try other ways of induction first. Nipple stimulation is a great one because as soon as those contractions start getting too strong or close together, you can stop. Once you take some of these other things into your system, they are there for awhile and you can’t take them out.

  7. Kiya says:

    When I had my daughter, my water broke but I did not start labor for hours. After 12 hours my MW gave me so homeopathic tablets that dissolve under the tongue. I think she said that they were blue cohosh. The minute they hit my mouth, I started to have strong contractions. Even that though was not enough. I had read somewhere that sometimes pushing can help so I started giving little pushes with my contractions and finally started to dilate past a four. I am so grateful for everything that I read and for my MW having something with her to help me. If not, I might have had to go to the hospital for what turned out to be a very normal, lovely birth. I think it is great that we have natural alternatives to pitocin.

  8. KAS says:

    Both my labors were augmented with pit; I’m honestly thankful I never had a section given that both were hospital births. First was SROM, nothing after 12 hours. I was neg for strep but also rushed to the hospital right away. Stupid mistake! Second was a little better, but still not ideal.
    Post suggestion: discuss how often pitocin is cranked up above the suggested max dosage. It happens all the time, and staff WILL lie about doing it to save their asses – or find a “medical reason” for it. Goddess willing, my next birth will be at home – probably with a midwife, but I secretly hope it’s unassisted!


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