Induction of Labour
Reasons why induction may be needed, what methods are used for birthing people in New Zealand, and how long an induction can take.
Induction of labour is when labour is started artificially using medicines or other methods, rather than spontaneously or naturally going into labour.
Usually, birthing people are induced for one of the following reasons:
- You or your pēpi are at risk due to a health problem, such as diabetes or pre-eclampsia.
- You are overdue (over 41 weeks).
- Your waters have broken and labour has not started.
- Your baby is not growing as expected or has stopped growing.
- There are concerns for the wellbeing of your pēpi, due to factors such as low amniotic fluid or reduced fetal movements.
If you are recommended an induction, you will be notified by your LMC in advance and they will discuss the process with you.
There is a range of methods that may be offered to you, such as:
- Prostaglandin gel – a hormone gel that is inserted into the vagina to soften and stretch the cervix, encouraging your body to stimulate the start of labour. It is not likely to put you into established labour.
- The balloon catheter – a tiny balloon that is inserted into the cervix and inflated to put pressure on the cervix and prepare it for labour. It is not likely to put you into established labour.
- Breaking of your waters (rupturing the membranes) – this is when the amniotic membrane is broken using a small hook during a vaginal examination. This is only possible if the cervix is partially open.
- Syntocinon – a synthetic version of the natural hormone, oxytocin. It puts your body into labour and stimulates contractions. It is given via an IV drip.
During an induction, you will need to have continuous fetal heart rate monitoring and have an IV drip inserted into your hand or arm. It is important to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids. How long induced labour will take before you meet your pēpi is different for everyone – it may be within 24 hours or it could take a few days.
It’s important to ask about the risks and benefits of any procedure so you can make an informed decision and therefore give your informed consent if you would like to go ahead.
During your labour, you have the right to be fully informed about options available to you and are able to make choices about what services you would or would not like to have throughout your childbirth experience. Before any medical treatment is given to you, the medical staff must receive your informed consent.
The BRAINS acronym can be a helpful tool to refer to when making a decision in labour:
Benefits – what are they?
Risks – what are they?
Alternatives – are there any? What are they?
Intuition – what does my gut say? How do I feel about it?
Not now – what might happen if we don’t do anything?
Subsequent actions – what are the potential consequences if we do go ahead?