Medical Induction of Labor:
by Renee Mandala, M.D., CD (DONA)

I’ve heard a lot about the harmful effects of using induction and Pitocin. Do you have any thoughts?

Maternity care in the U.S. is suffering an epidemic of induction of labor. Although it sounds harmless, starting labor with the use of cervical ripening agents and synthetic hormones, such as Pitocin, as well as rupturing the bag of waters when the baby/mother aren’t ""ready", often ends in a cesarean birth.

The initiation of labor is the result of a complexity of chemical communications between a mother and baby, which modern medicine has been unable to replicate without increasing interventions and surgical births. Convenience, mother’s discomfort, suspected large baby, spontaneous rupture of membranes, Group B strep, "overdue" pregnancy, and tests of fetal well-being (which are often false positive) are all reasons cited for inducing labor. However, it would serve the pregnant woman well to become educated on the specific reason she might induce, the drawbacks to that plan, and the alternatives available to her.

Keep in mind that companions to induction are constant fetal monitoring, often staying at the hospital overnight before labor has even begun, and I.V. hydration (which can lead to engorgement of the mother’s breasts and perineum, leading to other interventions, and alterations in the baby’s chemistry, leading to other interventions.) Also, induction is closely associated with the use of epidural anesthesia, which carries its additional risks and disadvantages.

I strongly recommend Henci Goer’s "A Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth." In chapter 3, Ms. Goer details the specific reasons and alternatives to induction along with gleanings from the medical literature. After reading it, be sure you are with a caregiver that is aligned with your philosophy on induction. Should you find yourself in a position to consider inducing your baby’s birth, this book would be a valuable resource. Becoming informed and making conscious decisions will lead to greater satisfaction and well being for the whole family.

Renee Christine Mandala, M.A. CD (DONA) is a Certified Birth and Postpartum doula. She holds a Master's Degree in Spiritual Psychology with an emphasis in Consciousness, Health & Healing. Renee provides heart-centered care through the transformational journey of birth and early parenthood. She is currently undergoing cerification with the UCLA Lactation Educator Program. For further information, see Renee's website