When it’s time to induce labor

There are cases when bringing on labor before the uterus contracts on its own is beneficial to the health of the mother and the baby. Labor induction artificially stimulates the uterus to contract before there is spontaneous labor.

A healthcare provider may recommend induction if and when:

  • Pregnancy is overdue (more than 42 weeks or at least two weeks past the due date)
  • The baby is getting too big
  • The mother has high blood pressure while pregnant
  • Premature rupture of the membranes (water breaks but contraction does not start)
  • There’s infection in the uterus
  • The baby has stopped growing inside the uterus
  • The placenta (the baby’s source of nutrition) is beginning to deteriorate

There are several ways to induce labor. Some cause the cervix (opening of the uterus) to dilate (thin out) while some both dilate and start contractions.

Ripening or dilating the cervix
Prostaglandin medication: In order to soften and help the cervix stretch for labor, prostaglandin is taken by mouth or inserted into the cervix. Sometimes this in itself sets off contractions.
Balloon-tipped catheter: A catheter (tube) is inserted into the cervix and a small balloon at the end of the tube is inflated, stimulating the uterus to start contractions.

Membrane sweep
The amniotic sac (bag of water that cushions the baby) is gently separated from the wall of the uterus by sweeping a finger over the membrane that connects the sac to the uterus. This causes a release of prostaglandin, a hormone that softens the cervix and could start labor.

Breaking the bag of water
In full-term pregnancies when the baby’s head is already weighing down on the cervix, the doctor makes a small opening in the amniotic sac. The amniotic fluid helps soften the cervix and produce contractions.

Oxytocin is a hormone that causes the uterus to contract. In induction, synthetic oxytocin is given through IV fluid that flows into the bloodstream.

Your ob/gyn will explain fully the need for induction and the risks involved in the procedure. Pain control options may also be recommended when necessary.


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