A woman in labor lying in a hospital machine giving brain health results

Here's What Happens To Your Brain When You're Induced

by Fiona Tapp

There's more than one way to bring your baby into the world, and for the most part how you labor will be a personal decision made by you and your team of health care professionals. But not all plans come to fruition, and sometimes the plan includes early medical intervention. Enter: induction. While it's often a necessary choice for numerous pregnant women, there are things everyone should know before one is scheduled. For example, what happens to your brain when you're induced? Turns out, there are more than a few experts in the field of childbirth that can give you the answers that can, perhaps, best prepare you for the labor and delivery road ahead.

Doctors can decide to recommend inductions for a variety of reasons, as What To Expect explains, including if you're overdue, if there's a complication (like preeclampsia, diabetes, gestational diabetes, issues with the placenta, or problems with the amniotic fluid), if your water has broken, and/or if your baby isn't thriving. Inductions are started in a number of ways, too, usually with either medications, like Prostaglandin and Oxytocin, or via artificial rupture of the membranes (AROM), whereby a doctor uses a hook to break your water.

The American Pregnancy Association (APA) also reports on a more "natural" way to induce labor, stating the following: "Nipple stimulation is a natural form of labor induction that can be done manually or with an electric breastfeeding pump." So if the medical options of induction aren't appealing, and are not necessary, there are at-home options made avialble to you.

Your body reacts to an induction by beginning the process of labor, but how does your brain react? The drug Pitocin, and artificial oxytocin, which is the natural birth hormone, if often used for induction and can affect the mother's brain in a variety of ways. Megan J. Lewis, of Claremont Colleges, wrote a thesis on the effects of induction drugs on the mother's brain, citing the following information:

"Pitocin can have different physiological effects on the mother and fetus than endogenous oxytocin."

This same report states that Oxytocin affects the mothers bonding experience with the baby. Picotin can lead to stronger than normal contractions and a hurried birth experience which can possibly lead to birth injury and contribute to a negative birth experience, birth trauma, and birth-related post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The site BellyBelly also points out the differences between an induced labor and one that was not medically induced, reporting the following:

"Induction essentially replaces the natural process that happens over weeks, and forces your body to go through it in a few hours. Your cervix is artificially softened and your bloodstream is flooded with synthetic hormones. Contractions are forced to happen quickly and the tempo of labor increases over a short space of time. This makes the pain much harder to manage."

Still, more research needs to be conducted to understand exactly how induction affects the mother's brain. As reported by Lewis, "The effects of intravenous oxytocin on the brain and behavior are not well understood, and there is a lack of research on the effects of Pitocin on maternal behavior."

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) warns that inductions are not always successful, and that they increase the risk for a C-section. According to ACOG, "The chance of having a cesarean delivery is greatly increased for first-time mothers who have labor induction, especially if the cervix is not ready for labor."

The Journal of Perinatal Education also advised against routine inductions, reporting that unless there is a "clear medical indication that induction of labor will do more good than harm, nature beats science hands down."

As always, it's vital that you consult your health care provider, and make a labor and delivery decision that is both safe and mentally, physically, and emotionally best for you. After all, and because it's always worth repeating: there's more than one way to give birth.

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