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What happens when labor is induced?
Q: What’s involved in labor induction and what implications will it have for me and my unborn child?
Trina Missouri
A: Induction involves triggering the onset of labor with the aid of medication. Induction can be an arduous task taking up to 24 hours, or a relatively quick process taking just a few hours. Women with prior deliveries or a well-effaced and dilated cervix have a shorter induction. So your experience would depend on your pelvic exam and how many babies you’ve had before.

Here’s an excerpt from my book, Pickles and Ice Cream: A Father’s Guide to Pregnancy, Workfit Press, Spring 2003, that descotes the process:

Induction Procedure
“An intravenous drip of Pitocin (pi-toe-sin) is administered to your partner. Over the next several hours the uterus begins to respond with intermittent mild contractions. Eventually the intensity, frequency, and duration of the contractions increase. Once your partner is huffing, puffing, and dilating, she’ll be treated like every other woman in labor.”

Most couples worry about the pain associated with induction. I tell them that they need a certain number of contractions to deliver the baby. For example, those contractions can happen over six hours, or over sixteen hours. In induced labor, the contractions tend to be more concentrated but no harder than natural contractions. With contractions coming in a shorter time span, induction makes labor seem more intense. I remind my patients that in a typical labor at home, they would ignore many of the early preparatory contractions by watching television or doing last-minute housework. But after you’ve been induced, each contraction shows up on the monitor and is counted by you and your partner. Once labor is established, anesthesia can be offered to alleviate discomfort.

Induction should not be done as a convenience—for example, if it’s best for your schedule to have the baby on a certain date. It is a medical procedure and should be done only when there is a sound medical reason. Speak with your doctor about her/his induction procedure. It should not have any implications for you or the baby.
Craig L. Bissinger M.D.