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Once you are past your due date, you may be given a date for induction of labour – where labour is started artificially. Induction will usually be offered 7-14 days past your due date. If you prefer to wait a little longer, discuss this with your LMC who will probably want you to have an extra scan and twice-weekly monitoring of your baby. An induction will be moving away from your original birth plan, so remember you may need some of the things you might not have written, for example, an epidural. An open mind is so important with an induction.
First – make sure that you understand why you are being offered an induction. How will it be carried out, and what will the likely course of your labour be? Ask whether you may need other interventions during labour.
Remember that you need not give up on all the self-help techniques you have learned just because you are having an induction. Talk with your LMC about how you can move around, change position and use your breathing and relaxation to help you cope with the pain, despite having a drip up.
Keep an open mind about pain relief and choose what is best for you when, and if, you decide you need something to help.
You may be offered a ‘stretch and sweep’ or ‘sweeping of the membranes’. This releases prostaglandins which start labour off. About half of the women who have this done will go into labour within 48 hours. Your midwife or doctor will do an internal exam and try to sweep their finger around inside the cervix and loosen the membranes. It will not increase the risks of infection but it may feel uncomfortable and you may notice some slight bleeding. It can be done in the maternity unit or at your antenatal appointment, and you can go home afterwards to wait and see if labour begins.
Induction of labour is a three-phase process:
Which stage you start on depends on how “favourable” your cervix is. Your cervix is given a score (called a bishop score) and dependent on this score depends on the course of action.
Some women like to try DIY forms of induction or complementary therapies to try to start labour off. Some, like taking castor oil, are dangerous and shouldn’t be done. There has been little scientific evaluation for the following methods but they may be worth trying:
Acupuncture, homeopathy, reflexology and aromatherapy all have treatments which are supposed to help labour begin. Make sure you discuss this with your LMC and use a qualified practitioner if you choose a complementary therapy.
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