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Treatment: Induction of Labour

If a pregnancy continues beyond 42 weeks or if the health of the mother or fetus is at risk, labour may need to be artificially induced. Various methods may be used. If the cervix is closed, usually a pessary is inserted into the vagina to encourage the cervix to open. If labour seems to have started, the membranes surrounding the fetus may be ruptured. If the membranes have ruptured but labour is slow, the hormone oxytocin may be given by intravenous drip to accelerate labour.

Insertion of a pessary

If the cervix is closed, a prostaglandin pessary is placed at the top of the vagina to soften the cervix, which then thins and begins to open.

Rupture of membranes

If the cervix is already open, a small hook may be used to rupture the membranes that contain the fetus and its surrounding amniotic fluid.

Stimulating uterine contractions

If the cervix is open and the membranes have ruptured, oxytocin may be given intravenously to encourage the uterus to contract. The contractions and the fetal heart rate will be monitored.

From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.

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