Labour Augmentation: What Does It Mean?

Sometimes, mommy, you may start feeling the contractions and rush to the hospital thinking you are about to give birth. However, for some reason, your contractions slow down or get stalled, or your cervix stops expanding. In such a situation, your doctor will recommend augmentation of labour.

How is it different from induced labour?

Induced labour and labour augmentation are performed at different stages. While induced labour is stimulation of the uterus to begin contractions, augmentation of labour is stimulation of the uterus during the labour to increase the contractions’ frequency, duration, or strength. The latter is performed when your labour has already started but is not progressing, or the contractions are weak.

When will you need labour augmentation?

Expectant moms may require an intervention to jumpstart their labour due to many reasons, including but not limited to:

  • The cervix not dilating
  • Weakened contractions due to epidural
  • Irregular or far apart contractions
  • Baby not moving along even after pushing for hours

How is labour augmentation done?

Based on where you are in your pregnancy, the doctor may opt for a medical procedure to break your water or administer medication to further the labour. Sometimes, they may use both these methods together. To rule out the chances of it being false labour, your doctor may wait and monitor your progress closely. They may even ask you to walk or do some breathing exercises to efface your cervix.

If your labour is still progressing too slowly or not progressing at all, then your doctor may try any of the following methods:

  • Stimulating your nipples: By rubbing or pressing down on your nipples, your body releases oxytocin hormone, which helps kickstart your contractions.
  • Administering oxytocin: If the above method doesn’t work for you, the medical practitioner may prescribe an IV of synthetic oxytocin. This will help the uterine contractions to become stronger and more regular.
  • Rupturing your membranes: Although it sounds scary, it just means that the doctor will puncture a hole in your amniotic sac. It’s performed in a situation where you are already in an active state of labour, but your cervix is dilating too sluggishly, i.e., less than 1 to 1.2 cm per hour.  It can also be done if your baby is moving too slowly down the birthing canal.

These methods, however, are not recommended if you have had a previous C-section delivery, other uterine surgeries or scarring or if your baby is in a breech position.

In these circumstances, you may opt for more natural ways of labour augmentation like:

  • Walking around, squatting, standing or changing positions to facilitate labour
  • Emptying the contents of your bowel or bladder as they can hinder your baby’s descent into the birthing canal
  • Trying relaxation techniques including massages or yoga

Are there any risks of labour augmentation?

There are a few risks associated with the augmentation of labour, such as:

  • Synthetic oxytocin can lead to excessive or irregular contractions, which may adversely affect your baby’s heart rate or even lower the blood supply to him/her.
  • Rupturing of membranes too early in labour can also lead to infections.
  • It can cause umbilical cord prolapse, where the cord drops into the cervix before the baby. This can lead to the baby’s oxygen supply being cut off and would require an emergency C-section surgery.

These are worst-case-scenarios which you don’t have to worry about. If the labour still doesn’t progress after augmentation, then your doctor may use forceps or vacuum to extract your baby or opt for a C-section delivery.

Whichever way it is, your doctor will do their best to bring your little one into this world healthy and safely.

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