Natural Labor vs Induced Labor

A pregnant woman will be looking forward to the time labor starts, even though some tension and fear might also be present. However, after all those months carrying a child in her womb, a mother-to-be will be truly expectant. This is where the decision of whether to go for natural labor or induced labor comes into the picture.

Simply put, induced labor is when labor is made to start artificially rather than be allowed to begin naturally. It is important to point out some factors related to both types of labor so that you and your spouse will be more knowledgeable on what they entail.

Labor Hormones

The way labor hormones work in natural labor differs from what happens in induced labor. When a pregnant woman reaches full term the uterus will have more receptors, and once labor starts these get activated by the oxytocin, leading to the contraction of the muscles and the dilation of the cervix. Oxytocin is released in a pulsating way and these waves increase gradually. That is why at the start of labor, contractions tend to come every 20-30 minutes, with each one lasting for about half a minute. As natural labor progresses, contractions will get closer, about 2-5 minutes apart, and be more prolonged, often lasting between one and two minutes. This progression generally takes place over 10 hours or so. This allows the woman to have some time to rest a bit in between contractions, while the body adjusts itself to their intensity.

On the other hand in induced labor, there may not be enough receptors in the uterus. This calls for synthetic oxytocin to enable labor to commence and get the contractions coming. The artificial oxytocin is increased until the woman starts getting between three and four contractions within 10 minutes. Each contraction will have to last between 40 and 60 seconds and there should be at least a minute between contractions. Syntocinon or Pitocin is given in a continuous way via IV. Thus contractions start to be quite prolonged and intense from the very start, unlike what happens in natural labor.

Contraction Pain

contraction pain

The intensity of the contractions and the type of contraction pain differ between natural and induced labor. In natural labor the oxytocin works to stimulate the uterus to contract and dilate the cervix, and this enables the pain receptors to send a message to the brain, which in turn will release endorphins. This is similar to morphine, but more powerful.

In induced labor the body will not know that it needs to release endorphins, and so more intense pain will be experienced, and it will start immediately.

Movement During Labor

Movement during labor differs as in natural labor the woman will be better able to find positions that make her feel a bit more comfortable.

On the other hand in induced labor, with the IV drip attached to her, the woman will not be able to move quite so freely. Access to a shower or birth pool is limited to natural labor only.

Fetal Ejection Reflex

The fetal ejection reflex, discovered by Niles Newton back in the 1960s refers to that irrepressible and great urge the pregnant woman feels to push. During natural labor, with the oxytocin levels steadily increasing, there is going to be more adrenaline released and this will lead to the fetal ejection reflex.

However during an induced labor, this is not what happens since the oxytocin will not have reached its peak. Thus the fetal ejection reflex will not be experienced.

Effect of the Natural Oxytocin on the Baby

During natural labor, the natural oxytocin will help to protect the baby’s brain during labor. This is due to the fact that in the event of oxygen deprivation, the natural oxytocin will help by putting the baby’s brain on standby. It is like a temporary safety net to avoid problems such as brain damage and distress.

During induced labor, the synthetic oxytocin will not allow the woman’s body to produce the oxytocin naturally. So unfortunately the baby is more likely to be exposed to oxygen deprivation. Distress symptoms might thus result, which could lead to an emergency C-section.

The Possibility of Post-Partum Bleeding

During natural labor a woman’s body reaches a very high level of oxytocin. This helps to minimize post birth bleeding.

When a woman is induced, there is not going to be that boost in natural oxytocin. As a result the risk of postpartum hemorrhage increases dramatically.

Bonding with the Child

According to research during a natural labor, thanks to the high levels of natural oxytocin, the bonding between the mother and the child happens optimally. In induced labor, due to the synthetic oxytocin that is given, the mother’s body will not be able to have that high level of natural oxytocin. This could negatively affect bonding between the mother and the baby due to the interference with the natural hormones, which might in turn influence the mother’s mood, behavior and stress levels.

Thus, considering all this, it can be concluded that whenever possible it may be better to be a bit more patient and allow natural labor to commence, rather than opt for induced labor.