Information on Inducing Labor

Q. I am searching for information or articles on induced parturition (labor). Is there any information published on this topic?

John, via e-mail

A. There are multiple sources of published information regarding induction of parturition in mares. However, this data is presented in scientific format in veterinary textbooks, proceedings from the American Association of Equine Practitioners conventions, or in peer-reviewed journals, thereby not lending it to casual reading by the lay person.

It is important to note that induction of parturition is a very serious undertaking. The timing must be very precise in order to deliver a normal, healthy foal. In fact, mistiming the delivery by as little as three days will often result in a compromised foal that is destined to visit a hospital, or worse.

Inducing a mare for the wrong reasons can resulted in the loss of the foal. Such reasons include: over-anxious owners, prolonged gestation, and convenience in foaling time. There are very few good reasons to induce a mare. One valid reason is a mare that has a history of, or is expected to, experience dystocia (difficult birth). Induced delivery then allows necessary staff to be on hand. But even then, readiness for birth must be confirmed using milk electrolyte tests and a detailed physical examination.

At our hospital, we admit high-risk mares, but we allow them to foal naturally. The caveat is that we have the necessary veterinary staff on hand 24 hours a day to assist as needed. This approach comes from a sentiment almost all veterinarians share: the best place for a prenatal foal is in the womb. This opinion has been established after years of frustration that has come from treating neonates from induced deliveries.

Speak with your equine veterinarian for information before inducing labor. Under no circumstances should this procedure be undertaken without professional guidance.

About the Author

Robert P. Franklin, DVM, Dipl. ACVIM

Robert P. Franklin, DVM, Dipl. ACVIM, practices at the Goulburn Valley Equine Hospital in Victoria, Australia.

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