Labor induction is the use of medications or other methods to bring on (induce) labor. Labor is induced for many reasons. Some of the methods used to induce labor also can speed up labor if it is going too slowly. Labor is induced in about 20% of pregnant women in the United States.

Stages of Labor

Labor is the process that leads to the birth of a baby. Labor usually starts on its own between 27 and 42 weeks of pregnancy.

There are three stages of labor. The first stage of labor is the longest – active labor. The second stage is the pushing phase – the birth of the baby. The third stage is the shortest – delivery of the placenta. The cervix and uterus play key roles in labor. The cervix must be fully thinned out and fully open to allow the baby’s head to pass through the vagina. In some women, the cervix starts thinning and opening a few weeks before labor begins. The uterus – which is a muscle – begins to contract. During contractions, a woman may feel pain or pressure that starts in the back and moves around to her lower abdomen. Her belly will tighten and feel hard. Between contractions, the uterus relaxes and the belly softens.

The contractions are doing important work. They open the cervix, which has been tightly closed since the start of pregnancy. Contractions also help push the baby into the vagina. They will become more intense, last longer and come closer together until the birth of the baby.

During active labor, the fluid-filled amniotic sac that has cushioned your baby in your uterus throughout pregnancy may rupture. Some women do not feel their water breaking. Others feel gush or trickle of fluid. Once your water has broken, contraction likely will become more intense.

Reasons for Labor induction

Labor is induced to cause a pregnant woman’s cervix to thin out and open to prepare the vaginal birth of her baby. Labor may be induced if the health of the woman or the baby is at risk. Whether your labor will be induced depends on the condition of you and your baby, how far along the pregnancy is, the status of your cervix and other factors. Unless a problem occurs, labor induction is not done before 39 weeks of pregnancy. Reasons for inducing labor may include one or more of the following conditions:

  • Your pregnancy is post-term
  • You have high blood pressure caused by your pregnancy
  • You have health problems that could harm you or your baby
  • You have an infection in the uterus
  • You have placental abruption
  • You have premature rupture of membranes

There may be other reasons why labor induction may be needed. For instance, your labor may be induced if you are at term and live a far distance from the hospital or if you are at risk for rapid delivery.

Finally…

For some women, having the baby is safer than continuing the pregnancy. Your labor must be induced if you have not started labor on your own or if you have problems that present a risk to you or your baby.There are a number of methods your doctor may choose to induce labor.

We are here to help you have the best possible birthing experience. Contact us if you have any questions or to schedule an appointment.