How to Have an Induction

Last month we shared  a blog post called How to Have a Cesarean.  Today we're back because we want to share more tips and tools for whatever type of birth you're planning.  Keep an eye out for How to Have A Natural Birth and How to Have an Epidural... coming soon!

This blog is for the women who are either planning an induction or who are getting as educated as possible in case an induction is wanted or needed in your future.  There is a lot of conflicting information out there about inductions and their necessity, their importance, and their side effects or risks.  In fact, when we polled clients, friends, and family, we got answers ranging from "Don't do it!" to "It was really convenient to plan around my other children's schedules."  

1. Be clear on WHY you're having an induction.

Knowledge is power.  Make sure you understand whether your induction is recommended, medically necessary, or if you're the one who is requesting one, why you feel like it's the best route for you.  I've heard many times from women who say that their inductions were recommended and they ended up regretting them.  However, I've heard an equal number of stories that went the other direction.  They were medically necessary and thank goodness they happened when they did!  The reality is that when you look back on your birth experience, most women like to connect all the dots of their baby's story.  If you can make the dots very clear beforehand, it will be easier to remember a positive story instead of one of confusion and doubt.

If you're an evidence and research person, take some time and figure out all of the risks and benefits of an induction to see if it's right for you.  Not everyone is comfortable with the risks, and yet some people feel like the benefits outweigh them.  Every situation is different!  Talk to your care provider about the risks and how they are handled in their specific practice.

2. Ask questions about the process and what to expect.

There is more than one way for an induction to happen.  Make sure that you are aware of all of the steps necessary for a successful induction with your own care provider.  Sometimes, the first step (a foley bulb) is inserted to encourage dilation and stimulate labor.  Sometimes it does stimulate labor and sometimes it doesn't.  Don't be surprised if step one doesn't result in active labor!  Figure out what those next steps will be.  Often, the next step will be using labor-inducing medications (like pitocin) or manually breaking the bag of waters.  Figure out what you can expect from every step of the process so that you can prepare.  And be aware that sometimes inductions last a few hours and a baby is in your arms.  But sometimes an induction will last much, much longer.  Be prepared for a long induction and be pleasantly surprised if it is short!  Ask your care provider, ask your doula, and ask your friends who have been through an induction before what that looked like for them so you can hear a range of possibilities.

The #1 piece of advice that women gave when asked was to be prepared for the pitocin contractions.  Contractions while being given labor-inducing medications are notoriously intense.  Prepare yourself mentally for an intense experience (although you were already doing that--because all birth is intense!)  If you're already planning an epidural, ask your nurses when they would recommend getting one--they're not readily available at any second!  Make sure you have some tools for coping with labor before you get the epidural.  If you're planning a pain-med-free labor and birth, make sure you get prepared for how to make sure that happens!

3. Take advantage of the convenience, but don't forget...

Let's be real here.  Knowing that day of your birth has some serious benefits!  You can schedule childcare, have your bags packed, know the route to the hospital with the least traffic at that time of day, plan ahead with food and drinks for your family, make sure the car seat is in the car safely, and go out to dinner the night before for your last date night!  BUT.  Don't forget this important tip:  Be prepared anyway.  Because you could go into labor anytime!  Just because your induction is scheduled next week doesn't mean that you won't go into labor tonight.  Be prepared for a spontaneous labor just in case.

4. Ask for your Bishop's Score.

There's a handy little method to determine the likelihood of having a successful induction! A Bishop's Score gives points to 5 measurements of a vaginal exam and then, after adding them up, you can place your number on a scale of how likely (in general) your induction will end in a vaginal delivery.   Check out this Bishop's Score Calculator if you want to figure it out yourself!

5. Do oxytocin-boosting activities! 

Granted, pitocin is the synthetic form of oxytocin, and if you're receiving that via IV, you'll have a lot in your body!  However, the real stuff, the "love hormone", oxytocin, is what makes the world go round!  It's necessary in the making of the baby, it's necessary in the birth of the baby, and then it's necessary in the bonding between baby, mother, and family!  

Oxytocin is the hormone in labor that stimulates your uterine contractions.  Even though you have pitocin to help, you can do your part to make sure that you're as comfortable as possible and make the process as smooth and quick as possible.  Oxytocin-boosting activities are things that make you feel good!  Hugs or kisses with your partner, laughing and smiling, talking/singing/reading to your baby, focus on visualizing the moment you meet your baby, and keeping someone close by who you trust.

6. Hire a Doula!

There are a lot of factors involved with an induced birth.  Make sure you have someone on your side who can answer your questions, facilitate communication with your care providers, make sure you're as calm and relaxed as possible, facilitate oxytocin-boosting activities, and be with you every step of the way.  We have attended some beautiful inductions--some of which were planned ahead of time and some that were only decided that day; some that were without pain meds and some that were with an epidural.  The process is less intimidating if you have support and someone who can give you the information you need.  If you want to learn more about what it looks like to have a doula at your birth, contact us for an informational packet and a free consultation!

What advice do you have to add for someone planning an induction?