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National Childbirth Survey

3. Inductions are fairly common, but may bring on more medical procedures.

Tallying the final numbers, it would seem that Mother Nature gets a lot of nudging. Over half (54 percent) of first-time moms had their labors induced, while 46 percent of moms who had already had at least one child also got their party kick-started. Pitocin, a synthetic hormone that triggers strong uterine contractions, was the jumper cable of choice, sparking 86 percent of the women into labor. Fifty-nine percent had membranes broken by their caregiver, 31 percent had them stripped, and 26 percent had prostaglandin (a gel, pouch, or tablet applied that loosen the cervix).

Why the rush? Forty percent cited health concerns (which might include toxemia -- a sudden surge in blood pressure -- and gestational diabetes). But disturbingly, nearly 20 percent of the women elected to be induced: "I wanted to go into labor with the doctor or midwife I preferred." "I wanted to be done with my pregnancy and have my baby." "I wanted to control the timing of birth to make work or personal plans." From these responses, it's clear that many women viewed induction as a way to gain control over when, where, and with whom they delivered their babies.

What women often don't know, however, is that artificially starting labor can lead to their having less control over the experience. Studies show that inductions can bring on more painful contractions and longer labors (the average lasting between 24 and 36 hours), which in turn, can lead to further medical interventions -- from using external fetal monitors to epidurals to having c-sections. Inductions are also linked to an increased incidence of uterine rupture. It's important that women considering an induction confer with their healthcare providers before D-day to weigh the benefits against the risks.

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