What You Need to Know About Labor Induction

Most of the time, a normal pregnancy lasts an average of 40 weeks1, and labor begins on its own. But if your doctor has concerns about your health or the health of your baby, he or she may recommend induction.

Just saying that word “induction” can spark anxiety for pregnant women. You want your labor to proceed naturally, and just thinking about delivery on its own is stressful enough. But learning about the processes of labor induction can help you feel more calm and in control in the event that you need to be induced. If you have any questions, it’s always a good idea to speak with your OB.

What is labor induction?

Labor induction2 is the use of medications or other methods to bring on labor.

What is the process of labor induction?

Labor induction is a two-step process. First, your cervix needs to be relaxed and dilated. If your cervix is not ready for labor your doctor has a few options to encourage your cervix to dilate:

Labor induction methods

The second part of the induction process is initiating contractions. The most common methods for this include:

  1. IV drip with Pitocin®/oxytocin
  2. Breaking the water (a procedure performed by your healthcare provider)

Why do doctors recommend induction?

Your doctor may recommend induction when the risks of waiting for labor to start on its own are higher than the risks of induction. For example:

  • When you are a week or two past your due date and labor does not begin on its own3. There are different opinions about how long after the due date labor should be induced, but it is generally agreed that if you go too long after your due date, it puts you and your baby at greater risk of complications.
  • Your water breaks and labor does not start on its own. Most of the time, if your water breaks then labor follows soon after. If it does not, then you are at increased risk of infection and your doctor may want to induce you.
  • You develop preeclampsia. This serious condition can endanger your health and restrict blood flow to your baby.
  • You previously had a stillbirth.
  • There are signs of stress to your baby, such as abnormal levels of amniotic fluid or an abnormal fetal heart rate pattern.

How common is labor induction?

Very common. Almost one in four women in the US starts labor with induction.



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  1. “Women’s Health Care Physicians.” Definition of Term Pregnancy – ACOG. N.p., Nov. 2013. Web. 10 July 2017. <http://www.acog.org/Resources-And-Publications/Committee-Opinions/Committee-on-Obstetric-Practice/Definition-of-Term-Pregnancy>
  2. “Women’s Health Care Physicians.” Labor Induction – ACOG. N.p., Jan. 2012. Web. 10 July 2017. <https://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Labor-Induction>.
  3. “Women’s Health Care Physicians.” Labor Induction – ACOG. N.p., Jan. 2012. Web. 10 July 2017. <https://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Labor-Induction>.

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