Your health care provider may suggest certain procedures during your labor. It is important that you understand the choices you have to make.
To help you and your partner or labor companion make a decision, use the questions at left. If there is something you don't understand, ask to have it explained again. If you want to talk with your partner or labor companion, ask for a few minutes alone.
Why do you think this procedure is necessary?
Your health care provider can assess your baby's well-being by checking your baby's heart rate. This can be done by:
Generally it is best to let your labor begin on its own. However, your health care provider may induce (start) labor for your health or the health of the baby.
Reasons to start labor or to speed up a slow labor by using induction methods include:
Your health care provider will talk with you about the risks with inducing labor. Together, you will decide which option is right for you.
You and your baby will be closely watched during labor induction.
There are several ways to get the uterus to start contracting:
Before your baby can be born, your cervix needs to soften so it will open and let your baby pass through. The process is called "ripening" of the cervix. It may shorten the time it takes to induce labor or cause labor to start on its own.
An amniotomy is also done to allow the use of an internal fetal monitor.
Sometimes breaking the bag of waters, or amniotic sac, will begin or speed up labor. This procedure is called an amniotomy. The amniotic sac is broken with a plastic hook during a vaginal exam. You won't feel pain when the bag of waters is broken—just a warm gush of fluid.
After your water breaks, you'll be monitored at least every hour. Your health care provider will let you know how active you can be. If contractions do not start within a set amount of time, you may be given the medicine Pitocin®. Your health care provider will talk with you about how long to wait for contractions to start on their own.
Pitocin® (oxytocin) is a medicine that stimulates uterine contractions. It is given through the IV in your hand or arm to induce labor or improve its progress. It may also be given to reduce bleeding after birth.
To induce labor, a nurse will increase your Pitocin rate about every 40 minutes until you are in active labor. You will probably have to stay in or near your bed or chair because you and your baby need to be monitored. Your IV will stay in place during your whole labor. It is usually removed after the recovery period when your health care team feels you no longer need it.
Contractions may quickly become intense when Pitocin is used. You may have to change your breathing and use more comfort measures. Your partner or labor companion can help you relax with touch techniques like stroking and using massage between contractions. Even if you find it hard to relax during the contractions, focus on getting relaxed between them.
Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Beginnings: Pregnancy, Birth and Beyond, seventh edition, ob-ah-90026
Allina Health's Patient Education Department experts