Induction of labor, or the process of starting labor before it has started on its own, is something that is widely misunderstood. Here are 3 myths about labor induction and the facts you need to know to make informed choices about this common labor experience.
MYTH #1: It doesn’t matter when the baby is born, as long as they are “full term.”
FACT: A baby born at “full term” could still experience complications of prematurity if labor is induced earlier than the mother would have otherwise gone into labor.
Although a baby is considered “full term” once they reach 37 weeks, it is normal for babies to be born anywhere from three weeks before to two weeks after their “due date” (which really should be called a “guess month” since that is a five week time span!) Believe it or not, scientists don’t exactly know what causes a woman’s labor to start, but we do know that is a combination of a complex cocktail of chemical signals from the mother’s body (signaling it is ready for labor) as well as hormones secreted by the baby’s lungs (signaling the baby’s lungs are developed enough for life on the outside). Interrupting this process should be reserved for situations in which the health of the mother or baby are at risk if the pregnancy continues. This is because some babies need longer to develop inside the womb than others and delivering a baby earlier than they otherwise would have been born can lead to problems with the baby’s breathing, blood sugar and temperature regulation at birth.
To learn more about the risks of induction without medical necessity, check out: Go The Full 40!
MYTH #2: My baby will be born on the day I go in for my induction.
FACT: Induction of labor can take several days.
The process that your body undergoes to get your cervix, pelvis and uterus “ready” for labor typically takes weeks to naturally occur. When you are being medically induced in the hospital, the medication used typically takes at least several days to “ready” your body for labor before actual “labor” starts.
This means women who are induced will spend several days and nights in the hospital, hooked up to monitors, before they get to meet their baby. If you do not have a medical reason for induction, you will certainly be more comfortable awaiting labor to start naturally in your own home.
MYTH #3: My induction will start on the day I am “scheduled” by my clinician.
FACT: Your induction may get postponed by hours or days if the hospital is very busy.
Inductions are prioritized throughout the day by medical necessity and due to the unpredictable nature of labor and birth, the staff of the hospital cannot predict how many patients will be at the hospital delivering their babies on any given day. This is true at both large and small hospitals. Therefore, your induction may be postponed until the next day, or a later time of day, to protect the safety of you and your baby. This is an important point to consider when arranging for childcare for older children.
While it may be upsetting to mentally prepare yourself for a certain day and be told your induction is on hold, the hospital staff does this to protect patient safety. You will be instructed to come to the hospital when there is a bed available and staff to properly monitor the safety you and your baby.
While it may seem enticing to “pick” your baby’s birthday by scheduling an elective (not medically indicated) induction, unless the health of the mother or baby are at risk, healthy women with low-risk pregnancies are better off waiting for the baby to pick their own birthday!
Written by Melissa Anne DuBois, RN, BSN, CCE, CLC
Melissa graduated from the UMass Amherst School of Nursing in 2006 and has been a maternity nurse with Milford Regional Medical Center since 2017. Her professional interests include natural childbirth, breastfeeding, infertility, postpartum depression and contraceptive education. She is passionate about teaching new parents how to have a safe, positive and empowering birth experience and thrive during their first year of parenting. She loves ethnic food, tea, cooking, scrapbooking and dressing up for theme parties. She lives in Millbury with her husband, three children and a crazy dog.