Picking Your Baby’s Birth-Date: Appealing or Appalling?

If you are like any other pregnant woman at full term, you have probably felt that, “I’m really ready to be done being pregnant and meet this baby” feeling that so many of us have experienced. You may be feeling impatient, tired, huge, and uncomfortable. You think, “Maybe if I ask my doctor, he’ll agree to inducing labor so I don’t have to wait any longer.”

Maybe you would like to be induced for the sake of convenience for you and your family. I can understand the appeal of induction if, say, your husband had to go away for a business trip for a weekend around your due date or if he was in the military and had to leave. There are some, however, who don’t even need a really important reason to make the choice. For example, according to a Fox News report, some celebrities have scheduled early c-sections to avoid abdominal stretching.

Perhaps you’re due near a holiday or around a loved one’s birthday. Or maybe you’re aiming for an 11/11/11 baby! Wouldn’t it be fun to be able to say your baby was born on such and such a day? And if your doctor is agreeable to induction, why not? If you’re full term, what could it hurt?

Although it might sound appealing to pick your baby’s birthday, you should know that induction of labor carries with it some risks that might not be so fun for either you or your baby.

Rupturing the membranes (amniotomy) is a drug-free induction method. This can definitely get contractions going, but it also increases risk of infection for mom and baby. Furthermore, it puts the mother on a time clock. If contractions don’t begin on their own, then in comes Pitocin. If the mother still fails to progress within the doctor’s time limit, even with augmentation of the contractions, then it’s off to a c-section she goes (posing additional risks to mom and baby and harder recovery for mom).

The use of Pitocin (a common method of induction) creates longer, stronger, and harder contractions. This makes labor a lot harder on mom, increasing the need for pain medication (which in turn carries its own risks). It also makes labor a lot harder on the baby, and makes fetal distress more likely to occur. Fetal distress, in turn, increases the likelihood of delivery by cesearean section.

Cytotec has sometimes been used to induce labors, but carries higher risk of uterine rupture, heavy maternal bleeding, and the possibility of maternal stroke or death. In fact, the manufacturers of Cytotec do not reccommend its use for the induction of labor! I found a fascinating little article about the use of Cytotec from a laywer’s office. The article asks, “How many of those mothers who are induced are ‘informed,’  that is, how many really understand that any induction, but especially an induction using Cytotec®, places them and their baby at an increased risk for harm and death?”

How many indeed? It seems that there are too many mothers who don’t realize that the risks of induction or elective cesarean do not outweigh the benefits merely for convenience’s sake.

Of course there are medical reasons for scheduled induction or cesearean. I am not against these procedures when there is a medically indicated reason for performing them. In fact, I am grateful that we are able to do them when the baby would be safer out of the womb than in it. However, what really gets me frustrated is when a doctor, who knows the increased risks of inductions, orders one up for his or her own scheduling convenience- not for the health of the mother and the baby. This, to me, is bad medicine and unethical practice.

Note that there are natural means of getting labor started, such as nipple stimulation, sexual intercourse, walking, acupressure, and various other methods. These may not be as effective, but they are generally safer to try. If you must be induced, your doctor or midwife could try stripping or sweeping the membranes (lifting them up off the cervix) without breaking them. Also, Cervadil can be used to ripen the cervix. Either of these methods is sometmes enough to help contractions to start. They carry considerably less risk to mom and baby. These methods are worth trying before some of the more intense means of induction.

I encourage any mom who is considering an elective induction or cesearean to research the benefits and risks of each practice, and decide if the benefits outweigh the risks for her individual situation. Is there a reason that the baby’s health might be endangered if he or she stays in utero? Is the mother dangerously overdue? (Not just a few days, or even a week, mind you- that is still within an average pregnancy length). Does she or the baby have a health condition that would make vaginal delivery exceedingly risky, therefore requiring a scheduled c-section? These may be real reasons for scheduling your baby’s birthday.

However, if you are considering an induction or elective c-section merely for scheduling’s sake, I urge you to reconsider. While these actively managed labors can be successful, they pose additional risks to mom and baby that, at least to me, just aren’t worth the time saved.

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5 responses to this post.

  1. Hello Abi …. What a very informative and interesting article and yet it is soooooo sooooooo true …. Out of convenience and being tired this is happening ….The world is an entirely different place for all young mothers …..Keep the faith and rest well in the arms of GOD tonight .

    Reply

  2. For too many doctors and moms it is appealing. As a mom who has gone to 42 weeks with one baby, I can understand. But I also understood the risks and chose to wait until my baby was ready. 🙂

    Reply

    • Yes, I can definitely understand the draw to do it. I was only 6 days “late,” but I was definitely starting to feel the urge to get the whole process done. I also know that there are risks to waiting super long, too, and there are real reasons for induction. The only thing that gets me riled up is when they’re done for schedule’s sake and not for medical reasons. 🙂

      Reply

  3. I do not feel like I have the right to determine the day that my child should be born (if not medically necessary). It is one of amazing things about birth, speculating what day will be “the day.” I should say that I went over my estimated due date with both. My first by just 2 days, my second by 10. I’m thankful that they chose their birthdays. I would have never picked my first son to be born on my birthday, but now I am extremely grateful. Our society has no patience, we need to work on that.

    Reply

  4. Posted by do unto others on March 16, 2012 at 6:28 pm

    so tired of people using God to judge others…seems pretty un-christian. Maybe if we were more supportive of mothers as a society, women and families wouldn’t have to make decisions like this and/or feel judged because families are squeezed in every direction

    Reply

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