Assistance with labour and birth may be recommended either prior to your due date, for medical reasons, when you go beyond your due date and/or during labour.
When pregnancy goes beyond your due date
If you have had a healthy pregnancy without complication and haven’t gone into labour by 41 weeks you will have a routine appointment with your midwife to discuss the next steps.
You will be offered a membrane sweep at this appointment, which is an internal examination of the cervix. During this examination your midwife will insert the tip of her finger into your cervix and sweep around the bag of membranes that cover your baby’s head. This has been shown to release hormones that may encourage labour to start within 24 hours. Sometimes the cervix isn’t yet open, and a sweep isn’t possible. You may be invited to return for several sweeps. At this appointment your midwife will also offer you a date to have your labour induced. This is normally recommended by 41 weeks and three, four or five days (depending on your maternity units guidelines and availability). Some maternity units are able to offer complementary therapy to encourage labour to start naturally. Ask your midwife about this.
Induction of labour
These interventions will always be discussed with you, to ensure you fully understand the risks and benefits, and your consent will be gained prior to anything happening. For those women declining an induction of labour a plan can be put into place with support from the obstetric team.
How is labour induced?
Around 30 per cent of women are recommended an induction of labour for varying reasons. Your midwife or obstetrician will have a full discussion with you in the antenatal period routinely at your 36 or 40 week appointment regarding induction of labour and the benefits and risks of this, enabling you to make a fully informed decision. Methods used to induce labour vary depending on a range of factors. Your doctor and midwife will discuss the different methods with you and advise a method based on your personal circumstance.
When you come into the maternity unit for your induction, a midwife will undertake a full assessment of you and your baby and this will include electronic fetal monitoring (CTG) of your baby’s heartbeat and to see if you are having any contractions. Then the midwife or doctor will assess your cervix by undertaking a vaginal examination. Following this examination options for induction will be discussed with you.
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