With increasing pressure to induce labour and researchers admitting that the evidence is unclear, let's take a look at whether better-out-than-in is a safer option.
In Dr Sarah Wickham's thought-provoking book, "In Your Own Time: How Western Medicine Controls the Start of Labour and Why This Needs to Stop," challenges the prevailing approach of inducing labour in Western medicine.
Benefits and risks of induction.
Why we need to reevaluate the way we approach childbirth.
Understanding Labour Induction
Labour induction is a medical procedure aimed at stimulating uterine contractions to initiate labour before it begins naturally. It is typically recommended when there are concerns about the health of the mother or the baby, such as prolonged pregnancy, preeclampsia, or fetal distress. Additionally, some inductions are elective, where the decision is made for non-medical reasons, such as convenience or scheduling.
Benefits of Labour Induction
1. Medical Necessity: One of the most significant benefits of labour induction is that it can be a lifesaving intervention in certain situations. For instance, if a mother's health or the baby's well-being is at risk due to complications, inducing labour can help prevent further complications or tragedy.
2. Reducing Stress and Anxiety: Knowing the date of labour induction can alleviate the anxiety and uncertainty that often come with waiting for labour to begin naturally. It allows parents to plan and prepare, reducing stress during an emotionally charged time.
3. Personal Choice: Some mothers choose elective inductions for personal reasons, such as wanting to have a specific birthing experience or to accommodate their schedules. Having the option to choose when labour starts can empower women to make decisions that align with their preferences.
Risks of Labour Induction
1. Increased Risk of Cesarean Section: Induced labour can lead to a higher likelihood of cesarean section, primarily when the cervix is not yet ripe and the body is not fully prepared for delivery. Cesarean sections come with their own set of risks and a longer recovery period.
2. Fetal Distress: Induction can sometimes cause fetal distress, as the baby may not be ready for birth. This can lead to complications that require immediate medical intervention.
3. Labour Pain: Induced contractions can be more intense and painful than natural contractions, necessitating stronger pain management interventions, such as epidurals.
4. Emotional Impact: Mothers who undergo elective inductions may experience emotional distress if the birth experience doesn't meet their expectations or if they later regret their decision. It's essential to carefully consider the emotional aspects of induction.
Lack of Evidence for Benefits and Concerns About Long-Term Impact
In addition to the risks associated with labour induction, there is growing concern about the lack of compelling evidence demonstrating its benefits.
Research has shown that, in many cases, inducing labour does not significantly improve outcomes for mothers and babies. Moreover, a wealth of evidence indicates significant short- and long-term negative impacts of induction on the health and well-being of mothers and their babies.
Dr Sarah Wickham's Perspective
Sarah Wickham questions the routine use of labour induction in Western medicine and calls for a more informed approach. She emphasises the importance of respecting a woman's autonomy in childbirth decisions and advocates for shared decision-making between healthcare providers and expectant mothers.
Wickham suggests that many inductions are performed without adequate consideration of the risks involved, often leading to unnecessary interventions and increased medicalisation of childbirth.
She encourages healthcare providers to engage in open and honest discussions with expectant mothers, ensuring they fully understand the implications of induction, both positive and negative.
Labour induction is a medical procedure with both benefits and risks. While it can be a lifesaving intervention when medically necessary, its routine use for non-medical reasons raises questions about the medicalisation of childbirth.
Who's responsible for your birth?
Taking responsibility for your birth journey involves informed decision-making, and one powerful tool for achieving this is the BRAINS mnemonic from Katharine Graves' KG Hypnobirthing book.
Consider asking questions and using BRAINS.
Is mum ok? Is baby ok?
This method will empower you to make choices that align with your values and desires. It encourages you to explore the potential Benefits and Risks of any procedure or intervention, consider Alternatives, trust your Intuition, and recognise the option of doing Nothing when appropriate.
By applying this, you become an active participant in your birth experience, ensuring that your choices are well-informed and in harmony with your unique needs and preferences, ultimately leading to a more empowered and positive birth experience.
Labour induction should be a collaborative one between healthcare providers and expectant mothers, with their well-being and preferences at the forefront of the discussion, taking into account the mounting evidence of its potential negative impacts.
Inducing Labour Naturally
Inducing labour naturally, as outlined in the KG Hypnobirthing book by Katharine Graves, emphasises gentle and holistic approaches to encourage the onset of labour when necessary.
The book offers various techniques such as relaxation exercises, visualisation, acupressure, spicy foods and movement to stimulate contractions naturally. It also highlights the importance of maintaining a calm and positive mindset, as stress and anxiety can inhibit labour progress.
By focusing on these natural methods and embracing relaxation, mothers can foster a more harmonious and less medically invasive labour process, promoting a sense of empowerment and connection to the natural rhythms of their bodies.