Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
Becci Barker, East Morton, Keighley, West Yorkshire, UK
Photo: At First Sight
Two different experiences of induced birth
When I fell pregnant with my second child I was overjoyed, but at the back of my mind lurked the worry that I might have to endure another long and traumatic labor.
During my first pregnancy, I booked a home birth and practiced natal hypnotherapy, but I ended up being induced before term, due to my baby’s growth slowing. The birth was full of interventions and complications despite my best intentions.
Because my baby was presenting back to back and I was made to lie flat on my back for many hours, I felt completely unable to cope and accepted an epidural, which I have never regretted (though I realize it could have contributed to the many complications that later occurred).
My baby got an infection during the prolonged labor and spent ten nights away from me in the special care unit. Getting breastfeeding established was an uphill battle.
As my second pregnancy progressed, it became apparent that this baby’s growth had slowed too. I spent hours poring over the pros and cons of early induction in cases of slowed growth and eventually decided to accept the induction, when it was offered at 38 and a half weeks.
The consultant was sympathetic to my anxieties over what happened last time and referred me to the head of the labor ward, who was incredibly supportive and promised to do all she could to help me have the labor I wanted this time. We discussed the fact that the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommendations for continuous monitoring were less cautious than the hospital’s guidelines and I asked that the NICE ones be followed instead. She agreed to write some notes to the midwives on shift to ask them to help facilitate a birth that was as hands-off as possible.
Induction day rolled round and the experience proved to be a completely different one from the outset. Instead of being induced in a busy, shared room, I was taken straight to the midwife-led unit, which was a complete contrast—peaceful, bright, and airy, with lovely features like an outside decking area!
Early labor kicked in after just a few hours. The contractions soon became very strong and painful. Due to my being high risk, the midwives ideally wanted a continuous trace of the heartbeat to check all was going okay, but the monitor slipped off when I moved around. As this baby was back to back too, I couldn’t stand lying still, so we agreed that I could move round and they would make a note on my records that I was happy for them not to get a continuous trace.
After coping by using the active birthing equipment in the room for a few hours, the midwife asked if I’d like to get in the pool. I was really keen to try it. The water was lovely and I felt calm. But after a while, the contractions were unbearable. I tried some gas and air but as I couldn’t stop pushing, the midwife wanted me to get out for an examination. She was sure I couldn’t be in active labor yet but, when I lay in agony on the bed, I was fully dilated! After half an hour of pushing, my son Rory was born naturally. Labor had taken 24 hours fewer than it did the first time. I was so happy I managed to cope without all those interventions.
I was overjoyed to be able to breastfeed my baby straightaway. It was such a contrast to the first time, when my baby had been hooked up to machines and I had had to awkwardly hand express colostrum.
I decided to stay in for one night and we left the next afternoon and enjoyed a babymoon in bed for several days.
Maybe it was just luck of the draw or because second labors are famously easier, but I felt so much more relaxed this time due to the lovely environment and being allowed to move around, without being monitored.
I hope this reassures mothers-to-be that inductions can be positive experiences, but that sometimes you need to take an active role and ask for what you want!
Part of me does think that we sometimes hope so much for a hands-off, natural labor that anything less can be a major disappointment and this isn’t always healthy. But I also believe that women can improve their chances of having a good birth not just by preparing themselves for labor but by asking their midwife to respect their wishes during labor, too.
If an induction is recommended, explore the options and consequences.
Prenatal size estimates are notoriously inaccurate. Research indicates that inducing babies’ birth increases the risk of prematurity and health issues, surgical delivery, and difficulties establishing breastfeeding. The World Health Organization recommends limiting medical inductions to those that are truly required.
Find out what medications will be involved and how they will affect your baby. Your local Leader can help you by looking in Hale, T. W. Medications and Mothers’ Milk, 16th edition, 2014, or you can check Medications and Mothers’ Milk Online.
Consider asking that any artificial oxytocin used to jump-start your labor be given at intervals rather than continuously. Once labor is underway, experiment with tapering off the Pitocin/Syntocinon as labor may continue without it and research indicates that a lower, slower rate reduces the risk of your having an emergency Cesarean.
You may not want your water broken, which is often done routinely to speed labor. Often there is then a time limit on how long your caregiver will wait for labor to get going before a C-section is recommended. See The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, 8th Revised Edition. Schaumburg, IL: La Leche League International, 2010, pages 55–56.