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Induction vs Augmentation | What's the Difference?

Updated: Sep 5, 2023

Induction is a very popular topic around birth, most commonly associated with Pitocin, or Syntocinon if you're not in the United States. Augmentation is less talked about, but just as important.

In this post, we'll explore what these terms mean, how the procedures differ, and what to consider if these conversations arise.

Induction - "Jumpstarting" labor before your body begins laboring on it's own.

Inductions are procedures that are intended to make labor begin.

Inductions are normally (but not always) scheduled during the month of pregnancy, and include a range of approaches.

The most commonly known approach, as mentioned, is the administration of synthetic oxytocin, known as Pitocin, "Pit", or Syntocinon. This drug causes uterine contractions by filling in the uterus's oxytocin receptors. The uterus increases the amount of these receptors in the days leading up to spontaneous labor. If Pitocin is given before your uterus has adequate receptors ready, this method of induction may not work.

Other methods of induction include manipulating the cervix through means of synthetic hormones or forced expansion. Cervical suppositories, like Cervadil, contain synthetic prostaglandins that cause the cervix to soften, shorten, and dilate. Other methods include a "stretch and sweep" done by a doctor or midwife with their fingers, or by inserting a foley catheter into the cervical opening and inflating the balloon to stretch the cervix open. Manipulating the cervix in these ways can trigger contractions, beginning labor.

Augmentation- Giving labor a "push" after your birth process has already begun.

Augmentations are procedures that are intended to speed labor up.

Augmentations can use many of the same interventions as induction, including administering pitocin (syntocinon) to strengthen or increase the frequency and length of your contractions. Augmentation also includes cervical manipulation through cervidil, foley balloon, stretch and sweep, or by rupturing the amniotic sac through the cervical opening (called an amniotomy).

These interventions share the goal of continuing vaginal birth at a faster speed than your body was working.

Induction & Augmentation | Both intentionally interfere with your body's birth process

Inductions and Augmentations both interfere with your body's physiologic birth process, which inherently carries risk for you and your baby. The risks associated with induction and augmentation vary, based on your individual birth and the methods used. You may decide that the benefits of an intervention outweigh it's risks. It's important to check in with your intuition, have the necessary conversations with your birth supports, and make decisions for your birth that feel right for you.

Likewise, your birth team should always hold the space for you to make these decisions, offer you evidence based information, and respect your healthcare decisions. However, we know that not all providers wait for consent, and that many of the interventions posed on women in labor are done so for the convenience of staff, or as an attempt to restore balance after other interventions cause concern. Choosing your birth team carefully, and doing your best to create a supportive environment for your birth can help render trust, should these conversations arise.

Birth is Sacred.

Resources on Induction & Augmentation of Labor


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