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As a pregnant woman or someone planning to get pregnant, it is good to get a clear picture of what all can be expected during this time. Advance knowledge and preparation is always good because it helps in taking right decisions. If your labour is not progressing well, the healthcare practitioner may ‘augment’ it or help it along by doing things that will help stimulate contractions. There are numerous reasons why the health practitioner goes for it, and this varies from case to case.
What Is Labour Augmentation?
During labour pains, the cervix expands making the mucus thinner so that the baby can pass through the birth canal. Some women get active labour with frequent contractions and deliver the baby without any hassle. However, there are times when this active labour turns into infrequent or slow contractions and may stop. To improve the contractions and make it easier to deliver the baby safe and sound, a doctor opts for procedures such as labour augmentation.
Why Is Labour Augmented?
Labour augmentation needs to be done in following cases:
- When you are in your labour but the amniotic sac has still not ruptured.
- When you are in active labour but the contractions are not frequent or strong enough or may have stopped completely.
- When the amniotic sac has ruptured but labour has made no progress at all.
How is Augmentation of Labour Done?
Augmentation stimulates the contractions artificially through medical interventions and natural therapies. It helps with the continuity of labour, dilates the cervix, and makes way for the baby to come out. It is done by the doctor after checking the frequency of contractions, the heartbeat of the baby, the dilation of the cervix and the movements of the baby. The baby should be able to tolerate these contractions. If the doctor chooses to go for augmentation, a drug called Pitocin will be given to you.
Pitocin is the artificial form of oxytocin hormone. It is injected through an IV line which is linked to a pump and is controlled by the doctor to give you required amount of the hormone. If this hormone is injected more than the required amount, it can cause continuous and strong contractions. Due to this, the uterus becomes highly stimulated and may put pressure on the baby. The doctor will monitor the contractions along with the baby’s movements with the help of electronic monitoring systems. As the contractions increases, the cervix will get dilated and this helps the baby to descend.
Augmented labour is not without its fair share of risks and one cannot demand it just because it is available. There are certain risks associated with it which should be taken into consideration:
Risks Associated With Using Oxytocin
Many individuals are allergic to this form of medication. Consult a doctor if you are suffering from these major side effects:
- Difficulty in breathing
- Swelling of face, tongue, lips, and throat
- Uneven heart beating rate
- Abnormal bleeding after childbirth
- A headache, confusion, slurred speech, weakness, vomiting, coordination difficulties, and unsteadiness which are caused by low sodium levels in the body
Increase in blood pressure causing intense headache, eyesight problem, pounding in neck and ears, anxiety, and bleeding nose
Some of the common side effects are as follows:
- A runny nose, sinus pain, and inflammation
- Memory loss
- Increase in strong and frequent contractions
Side effects that are caused due to oxytocin don’t need any medical assistance in labour augmented delivery. These side effects will fade away during the treatment once your body gets used to the medicine. Though, you can consult your doctor for reducing the side effects.
Risks Associated With Pitocin
Pitocin is the natural hormone which is used to contract the uterus and induce labour by increasing the intensity of labour at the time of delivery. It is also used to regulate bleeding and to induce the abortion if need be.
Pitocin should be taken under medical supervision only. It should be used at the time of pregnancy only. The major risks associated with Pitocin are:
- Uneven heartbeat
- Too much bleeding after childbirth
- A headache
- Slurred speech
- Seeing illusions
- Serious vomiting
- Muscle spasm
- Lack of coordination
- Low breathing levels
- High blood pressure
Some of the common side effects are as follows:
- Irritation and redness in the injected area
- Eating disorders
- Pain in the stomach area
- Strong and frequent contractions
- A runny nose
- Sinus pain and irritation
- Memory loss
Other Ways to Augment Labour
There are different ways to augment labour. Some of them are natural therapies and some are done under medical supervision.
- Walking during the first stage of labour increases the chance of delivering the baby in an hour. If walking is comfortable to you, you can do that.
- Sweeping of the amniotic membrane from the uterus releases ‘prostaglandins’, a chemical which generates contractions and labour. This technique works in 1 out of 8 women. The labour starts without the oxytocin medicine. The doctor does this by using a gloved finger through the cervix and she or he will sweep the finger over the opening tip.
- Rupturing the membrane of the sac or the bag of water is one of the options available to doctors. If your membrane has not broken on its own, the doctor will insert a slim plastic instrument from your vagina and expand the cervix to rupture the amniotic sac. This won’t hurt much as it will feel like a regular vaginal investigation.
- Nipple stimulation also helps in increasing the contractions. You are advised to rub or twist your nipples as this will stimulate the oxytocin hormone which helps in getting contractions.
If all the above options fail to get the delivery done, then the doctor may opt for C-section. However, this type of labour augmentation is tried only if:
- If the contractions are not regular
- The amniotic sac has ruptured but labour is not progressing
- The due date for delivery is crossed
- The baby needs treatment
- Vaginal delivery is not possible due to the bad condition of mother and baby, and so a C-section is done to save the lives of both mother and baby.
Labour augmentation should be strictly done under medical guidance as it may result in complications during delivery.