Induction means any action we take to start labor. There are many cultural/traditional induction methods, but usually when we say “induction” in the US, we mean medical induction.
Medical induction is used when continuing the pregnancy poses risks to the parent or baby, such as when the parent has pre-eclamspia. It’s also frequently offered as an elective procedure for individuals with healthy, full-term pregnancies who don’t want to wait for spontaneous labor. People choose induction for their own private reasons.
Whatever the reasons, it’s important for parents choosing induction to understand that induced birth is very different from spontaneous birth, and they should prepare accordingly. Spontaneous labor is sort of like a heavy stone rolling down a hillside – it starts off slowly, gains momentum, and once it gets going, it’s very difficult to stop. Induction, on the other hand, is like trying to push a heavy stone UP and then over a hill. Theoretically, once you get that stone to the tipping point, gravity will take over. But, due to a variety of reasons, we can’t always get the stone to the top, and sometimes once we do, it just sort of sits there without rolling down the other side. That’s why induced labors are more likely to require additional interventions and more likely to result in cesarean birth.
In practice, this means inductions often take a long time. 2 days is a reasonable expectation for a first time birth giver. You arrive at the hospital before active labor has begun. Your provider will offer various means, both medicinal and using medical tools, to convince your body to reach active labor. One hospital near me tells patients to expect it to take 12-24hrs to start active labor, then another 12 hours at least before baby arrives. Because medical measures are being taken to interfere with your body’s natural process, it’s recommended that parents and babies undergoing induction be monitored continuously for any concerning changes in vital signs.
For the duration of the induction, birthing parents must remain in the hospital. They are attached to monitors. They’re taking medications or having instruments checked on a schedule. It’s impossible to feel completely normal, because it’s a very unusual experience! That’s why I tell my induction clients to pack every last ounce of their mental toughness in their hospital bag. Yes, induction is different from spontaneous birth in physical ways. . . but in my experience, it’s the mental toll of waiting and being watched for 2 days straight that makes induction so difficult.
Prepare by thinking of ways you can have fun, relax, and distract yourself before labor reaches that tipping point. Binge watching, physical movement, mani/pedis, puzzles, games, podcasts, and books are all great options. Rehearse how you will pep yourself up if it’s been 18 hours and active labor hasn’t started. Make yourself relevant affirmation cards.
Bring things that will help you sleep! Along with the waiting and being watched, lack of sleep is another huge challenge with any induction. Pack an eye mask, ear plugs, your favorite sleepytime soundtracks, and comfortable pajamas.
Childbirth, like sneezing, pooping, or falling asleep, is a natural process that our bodies are equipped to do safely and without interference. When we choose to induce birth, it changes the process just like if we try to induce a sneeze, bowel movement, or nap. If we have to do it for our own safety, it’s SO WORTH IT! And being prepared is crucial for setting reasonable expectations and having a positive birth experience.