Labor, the process leading up to delivery, is a necessary part of childbirth. If we could skip the long labor and proceed straight to the delivery, that would be easier, wouldn’t it? But labor, especially those contractions, are what sets the stage for delivery.
What happens during labor? The baby turns and makes itself ready for departure. This process takes time, and the contractions are what prepares the body for delivery.
Contractions signal that the baby is beginning its journey. The cervix begins to dilate so that the baby can pass through. Once the cervix dilates to a certain size, the mucus plug will be discharged and some bleeding may occur. The cervix continues to dilate and efface (thin), preparing itself to pass the baby through.
For some women, the contractions during labor can be prolonged for various, uncontrollable reasons. In this case, drug treatments may be used to help the process along.
So, how will the doctor help? There are drugs that can be administered intravenously to speed up your contractions. As contractions increase in intensity and duration, the cervix responds by dilating.
Know that increasing contractions means increasing the pain.
Labor, the process leading up to delivery, is a necessary part of childbirth.
CC image courtesy of Vivian Chen
Your doctor will only suggest this method when it is absolutely necessary. The following are considered the most common drugs your doctor would use to increase contractions.
Pitocin This is the drug of choice to augment, speed up and improve, your labor. When the strength of the contractions is no longer effective, this drug may be given. It will increase the force of the contractions to wake up the cervix and move along the dilation process. Pitocin is a synthesized form of oxytocin which is a natural hormone in the body that causes muscular contractions in the uterus.
Cervical Gel The common name is Cervidil. Sometimes the cervix is not thinning and ripening like it should when preparing for birth. This gel acts like prostaglandins in the body. They are responsible, during labor, for dilation and smoothing out the cervix. It can be administered directly on the cervix. Keep in mind that a common side effect to this drug may be nausea or vomiting.
There is no way to really tell when your baby is ready for delivery; each delivery is different. But, you and your doctor will know when the normal process of contractions and dilation is slowed or halted. This is when drugs can be useful to ensure your baby has a safe passage into this world, and mother and baby finally get to meet!