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Labor Induction

What is Labor Induction?

Labor induction is the process of helping labor begin by using medication or other procedures.

Why is Labor Induced?

Labor is induced to stimulate contractions of the uterus in an effort to have a vaginal birth. Labor induction may be recommended for a variety of reasons.  Labor can be induced because either the health of the mother or of the fetus may be at risk. There are special circumstances where labor can be induced for non-medical reasons.  This is called elective induction. Elective induction should not occur before 39 weeks of pregnancy.

How is Labor Induced?

Labor is induced in a variety of ways depending how ready (soft, thin, open) your cervix is. 

  • Cervical Ripening- If your cervix is not ready; your provider may start with cervical ripening prior to your labor induction. Cervical ripening is a process that helps the cervix soften, thin out and open in preparation for a labor induction. Medications called prostaglandins or devices (Inflatable Catheters/Balloons) may be used to ripen your cervix.
    • Prostaglandins - Prostaglandins are drugs that can be used to ripen the cervix. They are forms of chemicals produced naturally by the body. These drugs can be inserted in to the vagina. Some of these drugs should not be used for women who have had a previous cesarean delivery or other uterine surgery.
    • Devices used to ripen or dilate the cervix - A catheter (small tube) with an inflatable balloon on the end can be inserted in to the cervix. This is a mechanical method and does not use medication, although it can be used in conjunction with other methods that do utilize drugs.
  • Breaking the water/rupturing the amniotic sac - your provider will decide if this method is appropriate for your individual situation. This is often done once the cervix is dilated and thinned and the baby’s head is moved down in to the pelvis. Rupturing the amniotic sac can start contractions. It can also make them stronger if they have already begun. The provider makes a small hole in the amniotic sac with a special tool.
  • Oxytocin (also known as Pitocin) - Oxytocin is the hormone that causes contractions of the uterus. It can be used to start labor or to speed up the labor that began on its own. It is given intravenously through a catheter that is inserted in to your veins. It is started and increased slowly to mimic what your body would do if it went in to labor on its own.

How long until I deliver if I am having my labor induced?

Labor induction can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days depending on your personal circumstance.

What are the possible complications of having labor induced?

Labor induction is a safe process with safeguards in place to help ensure the mother and the baby’s safety. However, labor induction can lead to complications like increased strength of contractions, increased risk of infection of the mother or baby, increase risk for cesarean section and, in very rare instances, uterine rupture or fetal death.

Is labor induction always effective?

  • Sometimes labor induction does not work. A failed attempt at induction may mean that you will try induction at another time. This will depend on a variety of things such as the reason for your induction and if your water is broken or not.
  • If labor induction is not effective, cesarean section may be an option. Your provider will explain the alternatives and discuss possible complications, future implications, risk and benefits of cesarean section.

Please feel free to ask your provider or Good Samaritan staff for further information regarding your induction.

Download Labor Induction Expectations (PDF)