All About Labor Medications
Induction medications are used to get labor started; augmentation medications are used to "help along" a labor already in progress. Oxytocin (Pitocin®), a drug well known for its ability to cause contractions, is commonly used for both induction and augmentation. When used for inductions, it can be used along or in combination with medications or procedures to "ripen" the cervix (if the cervix isn't already naturally ready for labor). Cervical-ripening drugs or procedures include:
- Hygroscopic dilators, which are small dilators placed in the cervix that slowly expand as they absorb cervical fluids, helping to ripen the cervix
- Balloon dilators, in which a small balloon is inserted past the cervix and inflated with saline to put pressure on the cervix, helping it to ripen
- Procedures like stripping the membranes or breaking the bag of waters, both of which help to encourage a "favorable" cervix by increasing natural prostaglandin production
- Prostaglandin drugs, such as:
- Mifepristone (Mifeprex®), a progesterone-blocking drug, given vaginally
- Low-dose oxytocin, given by IV.
All of these drugs or procedures have risks -- some greater than others -- so ask your healthcare provider about the methods he or she prefers. Do this ahead of time at one of your OB appointments. You don't want to be bombarded with a list of rare but terrifying side effects in the middle of labor.