Labor induction — also known as inducing labor — is a procedure used to stimulate uterine contractions during pregnancy before labor begins on its own. Successful labor induction leads to a vaginal birth. A health care provider might recommend labor induction for various reasons, primarily when there's concern for a mother's health or a baby's health.
Labor induction carries various risks, including infection and the need for a C-section. Sometimes the benefits of labor induction outweigh the risks, however. If you're pregnant, understanding why and how labor induction is done can help you prepare.
Why it's done
To determine if labor induction is necessary, your health care provider will evaluate several factors, including your health, your baby's health, your baby's gestational age and size, your baby's position in the uterus, and the status of your cervix. Labor induction might be recommended if:
Sometimes labor induction is a practical matter. If you live far from the hospital or birthing center or you have a history of rapid deliveries, a scheduled induction might help you avoid an unattended delivery. In such cases, your health care provider will confirm that your baby's gestational age is at least 39 weeks or older before induction to reduce the risk of health problems for your baby.
Some women request labor induction for convenience or to avoid causing a sudden disruption at home or work, but that's generally not recommended. Unnecessary intervention poses unnecessary risks — such as a possible C-section, which also increases recovery time and costs. Trust your health care provider to help you make the best decision in your case.
Labor induction carries various risks, including:
Labor induction isn't appropriate for everyone. Labor induction might not be an option if:
In addition, if you've had a prior C-section with a low transverse incision and have labor induced, you'll be closely monitored. If you've had a prior C-section or major uterine surgery and have labor induced, your health care provider will avoid certain medications to reduce the risk of uterine rupture.
Uterine incisions used during C-sections
A C-section includes an abdominal incision and a uterine incision. After the abdominal incision, the doctor will make an incision in your uterus. Low transverse incisions are the most common (top ...
How you prepare
Labor induction is done in a hospital or birthing center, where you and your baby can be monitored and labor and delivery services are readily available. However, some preparatory steps may be done before admission.
What you can expect
During the procedure
Keep in mind that your health care provider might also use a combination of these methods to induce labor.
How long it takes for labor to start depends on how your body responds to the induction techniques. If your cervix needs time to ripen, it might take two days before labor begins. If you simply need a little push, you might be holding your baby in your arms in a matter of hours.
Contractions might become stronger and more painful earlier in induced labor than they would in a naturally occurring labor. If relaxation and breathing techniques aren't enough to control the pain, ask for relief. Your health care provider might recommend an epidural block or other options.
After the procedure
The issues that lead to an induction might require special care during recovery. If you have a successful vaginal delivery after induction, there might be no implications for future pregnancies. If the induction leads to a C-section, your health care provider can help you decide whether to attempt a vaginal delivery with a subsequent pregnancy or to schedule a repeat C-section.
Last Updated: 2011-07-22
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