Alex Vance 8 months pregnant

Both of My Pregnancies Were Induced—Here’s What I Learned

I waddled down the sidewalk, the fall leaves crackling under the weight of my swollen feet. My gait was eerily similar to a mother penguin following her chick as my daughter skipped and twirled ahead of me and my husband. It was the last week of October and our final walk around the neighborhood as a family of three.

Artificial spider webs and smiling jack-o-lanterns covered every porch, but the only pumpkin I was focused on was the one using my ribs as a dance floor. (Or perhaps she was practicing some karate moves?) I was at the end of my pregnancy with my second daughter, and I knew it would be just a few short days until we finally met her.

Elective Induction

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that, for healthy pregnancies, inducing at 39 weeks significantly lowered the risk of C-sections and preeclampsia, which are leading causes of maternal morbidity. Some practices choose to offer elective induction, especially in patients with a higher risk of preeclampsia.

The reason I knew? I was scheduled to be induced. My first daughter was also induced since the OB/GYN practice I went to gives every patient the option to do so at 39 weeks—also known as elective induction—and I happily accepted. As uncomfortable and in pain as I was at the end of both of my pregnancies, induction seemed like a godsend.

Not all providers offer elective induction. It's important to speak with your healthcare provider to learn more about the best delivery options for your pregnancy.

I thought back to the induction of my first daughter. Aside from a few Google searches and some insights from my doctor, I had no idea what to expect. All I knew was I needed her out of there. My excruciating pelvic pain had reached its limit, and as I checked into the hospital to start the process, I felt an immense amount of relief. 

So, there I was in the passenger seat, 39 weeks pregnant with baby number two, my husband driving us to the hospital. It was October 29, and both of us were anxious to meet our little Halloween baby. When we entered the hospital for the second time, a blast of deja-vu hit me in the face like brisk wind on a cold winter day. Although I had a better idea of what to expect, it was still hard to control the swarm of butterflies in my watermelon-sized stomach.

The one thing I couldn't remember, however, was how true labor contractions felt. How was that even possible?

My mind flashed to memories of my first induction, and I remembered how bad the cramps were when I was given Cytotec (which is inserted vaginally to help ripen the cervix in preparation for labor). I remembered how unexpectedly agonizing it was when the doctor broke my water. The one thing I couldn't remember, however, was how true labor contractions felt. How was that even possible?

We began the same induction process used for my first daughter. The Cytotec started at 7:30 p.m. and was given every three hours, along with frequent blood pressure and heart rate checks, small doses of pain medication, and observation for signs of labor. (And a total lack of sleep.) Around 6:00 a.m. the next morning, my moderately painful cramps suddenly intensified.

"God, I really hate Cytotec," I thought. I looked over at my husband, who had contorted his body into what looked like the world's most uncomfortable sleeping position. I stared at the clock on the wall in front of me and started to count the minutes between each cramp.

Then it hit me: Oh my God—this is what contractions feel like. How in the world could I have forgotten? The nurse had told me beforehand that Cytotec, although not likely, had the potential to kickstart my labor—and that's exactly what it did. It was game time!

My second induction was nearly identical to my first. For both, I spent around 12 hours in labor, opted for the epidural as soon as I was dilated enough, and pushed for 10 to 12 minutes, with both girls weighing around seven pounds. There was also one interesting similarity between the two: my water never broke on its own.

It made sense during my first induction—my doctor broke it to speed up labor. When he came in to do the same thing during my second induction, I had already gone into labor on my own, so he opted to wait. It wasn't until I was fully dilated that he broke my water since it never ruptured on its own.

For a brief moment, it crossed my mind that I had 'missed out' on the experience by choosing to speed up the labor process.

It was those little occurrences that got me thinking: Should I have forgone the induction process and let my body naturally go into labor? For a brief moment, it crossed my mind that I had "missed out" on the experience by choosing to speed up the labor process. I knew going into labor was not likely to resemble the chaos depicted in movies, but the thought of my water breaking in the middle of the living room sounded a little...exciting! I pictured my husband racing through the house and frantically gathering our "go bags" as my contractions intensified.

Sure, it probably wouldn't have played out that way. But for a split second, just the thought of it made me regret my decision to get induced—but only for that split second. My mind even went so far as to label my induction as a "cop-out." I felt a strange combination of relief and regret. But the more I thought about it, the more I began to feel thankful that I was able to deliver two beautiful, healthy babies.

As mothers, we often hear opinions from others about how we "should" give birth—and that's part of the reason I was initially hesitant to commend my decision. Every pregnancy is different, and regardless of whether you deliver naturally, are induced, avoid or use pain medication, or have a C-section, there's only one thing that truly matters: the safety of your baby.

Because of this, the slight pang of guilt I felt over rushing my labor eventually faded. If my babies were delivered safely, what was there to feel guilty about? (Hint: Not a thing.) At the end of the day, the way your baby is brought into the world is important—but it's their life beyond the womb that matters most.

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2 Sources
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  1. Columbia University Irving Medical Center. For Healthy Pregnancies, Inducing Labor at 39 Weeks Is Safe.

  2. Hofmeyr GJ, Gülmezoglu AM. Vaginal misoprostol for cervical ripening and induction of labour. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2003;(1):CD000941. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD000941