Occasionally it becomes necessary to medically induce labor. A women might appear to be “stuck” in latent labor, she may be too far past her estimated due date, her blood pressure might be too high (hypertension), or the baby might be experiencing fetal distress. Sometimes the reasons are not medical in nature. If a woman is full term and her preferred doctor is going to be out of town, she might be induced so her doctor is able to deliver the baby. I have also heard of pregnant women being induced so their husbands can attend the birth while they are on military leave.
Most often, the method of choice for induction is Pitocin, or synthetic oxytocin. This hormone causes uterine contractions, and when all goes well, will cause a woman to go into active labor. Occasionally it does not work. Pitocin is most successful when the body is already ready to go into labor.
Obviously one benefit of using Pitocin is it may allow you to avoid a cesarean if your labor has stalled and your water has already broken. Once your water breaks, you only have 24 hours to deliver before the risk of infection is too high. Sometimes Pitocin is all a woman needs to get her labor on track.
Pitocin does have some drawbacks. It works a little differently than natural oxytocin since it is delivered continuously through an IV. The result is stronger and longer contractions that may make labor pains unbearable without an epidural or other pain medication. Most women who have had both natural and induced labors will tell you that their induced labor was much more intense and painful than the natural one. Sometimes this intense progression of labor can cause fetal distress or other birth complications such as premature separation of the placenta or uterine rupture. For this reason, women on Pitocin are closely monitored during their labor. This continuous monitoring is another drawback, since the woman will not be able to freely move about her room or the delivery ward.
Despite the drawbacks, Pitocin may be the best choice for some women, and a great relief to those who have been in labor for days on end. Were you induced with Pitocin? What was your experience?