Induction of labor refers to the process of getting childbirth labor started before nature is able to get labor started on its own.
Sometimes healthcare providers need to get labor started because of problems with the mother's health. A few examples are:
Sometimes there are problems with the pregnancy, such as:
Sometimes there are issues of timing, such as:
Before inducing labor, your healthcare provider will check the opening of your uterus (the cervix) to see if it is getting ready to allow the baby to go through. This helps your provider know how easy or difficult induction might be. Your provider will also check the baby's position. In some cases, especially if it is before your 39th week of pregnancy, your provider may want to check your baby's lungs. This can be done by testing a sample of amniotic fluid with a procedure called amniocentesis.
Labor is not induced if there is a reason to avoid a vaginal delivery such as:
Follow your healthcare provider's instructions. You may be asked to avoid eating or drinking for some period of time before being admitted to the hospital. Tell your provider about any recent illnesses you might have had or been exposed to.
Labor is usually induced at the hospital. Procedures that may be done to induce labor are amniotomy, oxytocin, a balloon catheter put in your cervix, and prostaglandin agents.
During the induction of labor, your contractions, your blood pressure, dilation of your cervix, and your baby's heart rate will be monitored.
Breaking the bag of water (amniotomy) early could increase the chance of an infection around the baby.
If labor is induced with oxytocin, there is a small risk that:
There is a higher chance that you will need a C-section if labor is induced.
If you have had a C-section for a previous birth, your healthcare provider will not use prostaglandin medicine to help with labor. The medicine would increase the chance that the scar on the uterus will open (rupture).
Most risks can be prevented with close monitoring and just a gradual increase of the dose of oxytocin. If any of these problems happen, your provider will stop giving oxytocin and may decide to deliver the baby by C-section. If the baby is very far down the birth canal and the cervix is wide open, your provider may use forceps or vacuum extraction to deliver the baby vaginally.