The idea of inducing labor has terrorized me since the birth of my son. It’s synonymous with what I still consider my biggest failure—not allowing Noah to be born on his terms. Instead, I tried to schedule him into my life.
I wish I could return to the weeks leading up to Noah’s birth. I would do more research on inducing labor ahead of my due date. I would say, “No, thanks” to my doctor’s suggestion to induce for the sake of getting it done.
Two things led me to choose an induction three days ahead of Noah’s due date:
- My OB-GYN had suggested it, and I trusted her. She was warm and laid-back. I believed she had my best interests in mind, not those of the big pharmaceutical companies. I still believe that.
- I was terrified of childbirth. Inducing sounded like a safe way to introduce order to chaos.
In seeking a tidy ending to my uneventful pregnancy, I sought to stay in control of my body and the baby. I wasn’t alone in my quest for convenience. Author Jennifer Margulis said, “’No one goes into spontaneous labor anymore,’ an obstetric anesthesiologist at one of Boston’s largest and most respected hospitals, told me this week on background (which means he did not want to be quoted on the record). ‘We induce them. They like it that way. It’s more convenient.'” Margulis wrote The Business of Baby: What Doctors Don’t Tell You, What Corporations Try to Sell You and How to Put Your Pregnancy, Childbirth and Baby Before Their Bottom Line.
The convenience factor has been in play for at least a few years. According to a February 2008 article in Medical News Today, convenience was “one of the more common reasons for induction.” The story explains, “Allowing labor to start on its own reduces the possibility of complications, including a vacuum or forceps-assisted birth, fetal heart rate changes, babies with low birth weight or jaundice, and cesarean surgery. Studies consistently show that inducing labor almost doubles a woman’s chance of having cesarean surgery.”
Inducing labor can be a lifesaver in high-risk situations, the article points out, based on guidelines from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
I wish I had read the MNT story before Noah was born. As a journalist, I’m used to doing extensive research. I have no excuse for slacking, particularly regarding the life of my unborn child and my own well-being. Induction should be reserved for high-risk situations or emergencies. Childbirth isn’t convenient. Nor is motherhood. I suspect the message of “Just induce—it’s so convenient” succeeds in America because we’re bred and badgered to believe we can have it our way, no matter what “it” is.
The birth of my second child was natural, spontaneous, and one of the best events in my life. I refused Pitocin. I pressed on for as long as possible without painkillers, and opted for conservative doses. I knew better, and I did better.
That same principle applies to the lessons I’m learning today, with a toddler and a preschooler. My children are teaching me, and I pray I’m improving. Parents strive to raise their children right. But children raise their parents right back—to new levels of awareness, love, and humility.
I have had several friends choose to be induced and only one that was glad of it. She was induced because her womb was not responding normally to provide the space for growth that the baby needed. Her child truely needed to be born early so that the complications did not increase. All of the other women that I know who have been induced had traumatic deliveries. I really believe that it is much harder on the mothers body. I don’t have any knowledge on if it is actually harder on the baby or not. Like so many things in life, it boils down to trust. It’s frustrating that we can’t trust even well intentioned highly educated people all the time. I tend to trust myself first and then God. He is working really hard to get me to change that! 🙂
Kristina, I appreciate the thoughtful way in which you addressed this subject. I was a high-risk pregnancy, induced 6 days before my due date and have always thought the idea of “controlled labor” an oxymoron, at best. Thankfully, I had no complications, but I know others who have. Your observations are insightful and appreciated. Thank you!
Thank you for writing this article. I really needed to read this. I am pregnant with my first. Today I went to the doctor, and he asked if I wanted to be induced next Wednesday at 39 weeks.I told him I would think about it, but he saved me a spot just in case. No medical reason necessary. He just said “for planning purposes.” My next dr. appointment is tuesday, the day before, and I think I’m going to decline getting the induction!
Thanks for writing. I’m glad you found my article, and that it helped you as you approached the birth of your child. I pray all went well with the arrival of your little one. Let me know how you’re doing, if you have a chance. You can email me directly at [email protected], if you’d like.
All the best,
I am confused – did something bad happen to you or Noah as a result of the induction? Was he harmed? Did it make your labor worse? Or do you just feel in hindsight that it was unnecessary?
Thanks for your question. I apologize for not making this post more clear.
My body didn’t respond well to the induction. The pitocin proved too much, and after three hours of pushing, Noah’s head had gotten stuck, his heart rate fell, and I nearly fainted. My doctor resorted to forceps. They worked, and helped me avoid a C-section. But they also left me injured, with many stitches.
The hospital ushered me out twelve hours earlier than my scheduled checkout time. My caregivers didn’t explain my injury, nor did they make sure all of my systems were functioning. I returned to the ER two days later, unable to go to the bathroom. I was terrified. I thought I might die and strand my son. As a first-time mom, I had no idea this sort of complication existed. Thanks to enemas and a catheter, my system began to function again. Within ten days, I was on the mend physically.
At that point, my mind reeled. I blamed myself for all that had gone wrong. I spiraled into a sea of endless tears, sadness, and anxiety. I called my OB within another week, and we determined that I had postpartum depression. I also developed an autoimmune disorder, one I still live with today.
I believe the induction contributed to my experience with PPD. I may have developed it even if I hadn’t induced. But I tend to think it would’ve been milder. I ended up writing a book about parents’ experiences with postpartum depression in the United States and the United Kingdom. I wove my own story into the book, too. I sought to inform, encourage, and empower other parents who face any of the perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. In some cases, they’re preventable. In all cases, they’re treatable.
If you’re interested in my book, you can read Publishers Weekly‘s review of it here. Thanks again for reading!
I want to thank you for sharing your story. I am not sure if you still check these messages, but just in case:
I am a first time mother, 38 weeks pregnant. Last week, I was surprised by my doctor’s recommendation to schedule an induction for the first day of my 39th week. This is not something that I had considered before. My fluid level has always been on the lower end of normal, but has not decreased and has stayed steady. I feel that I have been scheduled for induction for mere convenience because my date date is July 4th. I spoke with my doctor today to let him know that I am not comfortable with induction unless it is truly medically necessary. His response was that it is my choice, but then I run the risk of another doctor delivering me in the hospital.
I feel like my options are limited and wish that I would of known that my doctor likes to schedule inductions because it is more convenient. We had never discussed a birth plan. I am still leaning towards declining the induction and taking my chances with another doctor at the hospital. Is this a routine thing for doctors? How can I know for next time that my doctor will do their best to support natural labor than push for induction?