Labor induction

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 Risks How you prepare What you can expect

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:

  • You're approaching two weeks beyond your due date, and labor hasn't started naturally
  • Your water has broken, but you're not having contractions
  • There's an infection in your uterus
  • Your baby has stopped growing at the expected pace
  • There's not enough amniotic fluid surrounding the baby (oligohydramnios)
  • Your placenta has begun to deteriorate
  • The placenta peels away from the inner wall of the uterus before delivery — either partially or completely (placental abruption)
  • You have a medical condition that might put you or your baby at risk, such as high blood pressure or diabetes

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.

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