I see so many women in my classes who are approaching their estimated due date of delivery, or have gone over their date and their care providers are immediately booking them in for an induction. So what? You may say. Talk to women who have been induced, and they’ll tell you what!
In my classes, I work with women to try and help them achieve the birth they want, and in most cases that is a wish to birth as naturally as possible. I always tell women that labour is a bit like Forest Gump’s box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get.
In modern day obstetrics, hospitals are extremely quick to offer an induction to women who are overdue; I was myself. Technically there is nothing preventing a woman from going up to 14 days over their due date, obviously as long as baby is healthy & happy, and mum is well. However it is now the policy of many maternity hospitals not to “allow” women to go more than 10 days over. Plus it can also vary from doctor to doctor in each hospital. Those extra few days can be so important, allowing a woman to go into labour by herself when both she and baby are ready.
What most women don’t realize is that when a labour is induced (to begin labour before it spontaneously occurs), mum’s body and baby might not be ready. Therefore, you are inevitably leading into a cascade of interventions, as the methods of induction used will most of the time lead to very intense contractions and sometimes foetal distress, which will in turn require additional pain relief, then more drugs, and your chances of having a very medicalised birth, including forceps delivery or caesarian section, are much, much higher. Birth isn’t meant to mean lying flat on a bed, in ferocious pain, being interfered with during your contractions, using instruments to deliver your baby.
Obviously there are cases whereby the use of interventions is inevitable and is used to save the life of the baby or the mother, which is obviously of primordial importance.
So, what can you do if you are overdue, I hear you ask.
- Talk to your care providers and if you are overdue and they insist on booking you in for an induction before 14 days post your due date, have a conversation. It doesn’t have to be threatening! It goes without saying that baby is happy, there is enough fluid and mum is in good health. However, make sure you understand everything they are saying and it is not scare mongering. We unfortunately live in a very litigious country and obstetricians have one of the highest insurance premiums in healthcare due to the number of cases taken against them. BUT scaremongering exists. Only 2 months ago in one of the major Dublin maternity hospitals, one of my mums said she didn’t want to be induced at 10 days over as both she and her baby were looking great. She wanted the extra few days for a chance to go into labour herself. The doctor she was with said “BUT YOUR BABY MIGHT DIE”. Imagine! What an abuse of power. If any first time mother was told that, they would immediately do whatever she was told. Of course she then went ahead with the induction, in fear, and of course had a really tough, intense and long labour. It was completely against her wishes – isn’t that bullying?
2. If you are trying to get your labour going naturally at home, here are my top tips:
- Have sex – sperm has similar properties to the prostaglandin gel used as a method of induction, but is all natural!
- Tweak those nipples & get smoochy! What?! You are trying to increase the natural levels of Oxytocin (hormone of love, which is also responsible for uterine contractions) in the body.
- Practice squats and lunges, and bounce gently on a birthing ball, to encourage baby’s head down
- Lots of strong walking, particularly up and down stairs
- Address any fears of childbirth you have
- RELAX as much as you can
We have 3 hormones in the body that work during labour:
- Oxytocin – contracts the womb, but is very shy. It flourishes in calm, relaxed and loving environments
- Adrenalin – we don’t want to see this fella until we are almost ready to push baby out, so keep it away by lots of deep breathing and doing anything you can to keep relaxed
- Endorphins – our body’s natural pain killers. These levels, like oxytocin, will increase as labour naturally progresses.
For more information on anything in this article, please see www.mumandbaby.ie.
Helen Plass teaches Pregnancy Yoga classes and Active Birthing partner workshops in North County Dublin and is an Active Birth Advocate. She also teaches post-natal yoga, Baby Massage and Mum&Baby Yoga.