Update on “Natural” Inductions

I had previously mentioned a friend from church who chose to have a “natural” induction instead of letting labor take its course. I’ve gotten some more information about the birth, as well as an update on the baby.

The baby was in the hospital for about ten days — part of that time on a respirator, then gradually weaned. She was so young that they had to give antibiotics through an IV, which is why they kept her for so long — although it was touch and go for several days, right at first. She is home now, although she will be pretty much kept in seclusion for the rest of the winter (cold and flu season), to minimize the chance of her catching anything contagious and giving her delicate lungs a setback. As far as I know, they don’t anticipate any long-lasting consequences from her brush with death.

I’ve heard almost nothing about the birth story beyond what I had said before, except…

  • she had her membranes stripped to kick-start labor, and
  • her labor was 32 hours long

She was expecting a short labor, and even fearing a precipitous labor, because her mom had had very short labors with all of her children — the longest was about 4 hours from start to finish. Another of her friends, due about the same time, also had her membranes stripped (four times) in an effort to “naturally” start labor. Her labor was 26 hours.

[Stripping or “sweeping” the membranes is a procedure in which the midwife or doctor during a vaginal exam loosens the amniotic sac (the membranes) from the cervix, which supposedly stimulates labor by the irritation, or hastens the onset of labor “naturally” by jump-starting the production of prostaglandins that occurs in late pregnancy. It may work, and it may not. It may accidentally break the bag of waters (the amniotic sac), which means you will likely then be required to give birth by a set time, or carted off for a C-section, rather than risk a uterine infection. It may introduce an infection, although this is rare. It may also be done without your knowledge or consent at a standard vaginal exam in those last every-week visits.]

Who’s to say how long these labors would have been had they started completely spontaneously, with no intervention or interference (including castor oil, herbs, and stripping of membranes)? It may have been just the same. But I wonder if in her haste to start labor and meet her baby, she ended up making it take longer, and being more difficult than it had to be.

Let me restate here that there was no medical reason for either of these inductions. If there was a medical reason, then the risk introduced by these interventions (even if it was very slight) would have been worth it; but without a reason, introducing any risk is making a situation riskier than it has to be.

I know what it is to be “great with child.” I remember all too well the desire to have the baby out of my body and into my arms. I’ve never gone even to my due date, much less past it, so I can only imagine what that must be like — to watch your due date come and go with no baby. But neither of these young women were really “overdue” — they were both probably at 40 weeks and a few days when they gave birth. My friend from church knew (because I had told her, if she didn’t know this already), that most white first-time moms naturally go into labor at 41 weeks, 1 day. She chose to hurry it up, when she was at her due date, and presumably used more stringent methods as the hours and (two) days went by.

It greatly reminds me of the article I linked to in my original “natural inductions” post, which I will quote to end this post:

On the subject of all the women in a hurry to get their babies born: I was 3 weeks ‘overdue’ with my oldest daughter. What really helped me was that I had lunch with a friend at about 8 months pregnancy. Her son had been born 6 months before. When she saw me walk in the restaurant all hugely pregnant she said ‘Oh, Gloria, when I see you I miss my pregnancy so much’. I knew that one day I’d be saying that, too, so I made up my mind to enjoy it as long as possible and I’m so glad I did. Six months from now you’ll be wondering what the rush was.

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