Inducing labor, or labor induction, is a procedure in which your doctor or midwife uses methods to help you go into labor. In most cases, it’s best to let labor happen naturally. However, labor induction may be necessary for medical reasons, or if you’re more than two weeks past your due date.

Inducing labor is a subject of controversy, as some women or medical professionals opt for this method without any valid reasons. Talk to your doctor about when labor induction is appropriate in your case, and stick with natural labor whenever possible.

In a perfect world, you will have an easy pregnancy and go into labor right on cue at the 40-week mark. Still, there are some instances that can prevent a natural labor from occurring. Certain medical problems in the mother can make an extended pregnancy risky for her and her baby’s health. These include:

  • growth problems in baby
  • lack of amniotic fluid surrounding baby
  • diabetes
  • high blood pressure
  • preeclampsia
  • uterine infection
  • placental separation from the uterus
  • Rh-blood disease

Inducing labor may also be necessary if your amniotic sac (water) breaks, but you don’t experience contractions. Contractions occur in the uterus, and this indicates that the womb is preparing to dilate the cervix in preparation for birth. Since the amniotic sac holds the baby, a lack of contractions could mean that your body is not preparing for delivery as it should.

You might prefer an induction if you live far from hospital facilities, or have a history of rapid delivery. Inducing labor may also be medically necessary after 42 weeks. At this point, the placenta is no longer capable of providing adequate oxygen and nutrients for your baby.

Methods of labor induction include:

Stripping the Membranes

This technique involves the amniotic sac. Your doctor uses their fingers to push the amniotic sac away from the cervix to strip the membranes. Unlike other forms of labor induction, this method may be done at your doctor’s office. Labor could occur days or even hours later.

Drugs That Soften the Cervix

These drugs are also provided at the hospital and are meant to “ripen the cervix” to encourage delivery. You can take these drugs orally or vaginally.

Medications to Kick-Start Contractions

Pitocin is the most common medication, and it is delivered through an IV. Drug-induced labor can cause stronger than usual contractions, so you should talk to your doctor about pain management techniques ahead of time.

Breaking Water

This technique refers to the forced breakage of the amniotic sac with a small plastic hook so that your baby moves its way to the top of the cervix in preparation for delivery.

Health concerns and extremely long pregnancies are the only reasons why you ought to consider labor induction. Otherwise, inducing labor can have some serious consequences. These include:

  • premature birth
  • lowered heart rate in babies
  • uterine rupture
  • infections in both mother and baby
  • excessive bleeding in mother
  • umbilical cord issues
  • lung problems in baby
  • a need for a cesarean delivery
  • stronger contractions
  • vision and hearing problems in baby
  • baby’s lungs and brain don’t fully develop

Unless you or your baby’s health is at risk, natural labor is the best decision. The biggest benefit of waiting for labor to naturally occur is that it reduces the risk of complications associated with induced labor. If your doctor is pressuring you because of scheduling dilemmas, you might consider getting a second opinion.

The outlook for labor induction depends largely on the reason it is done, as well as the timing. If labor is induced for medical reasons, then the outlook may be improved concerning the health of both the mother and the baby. On the other hand, labor induced before 39 weeks can lead to more complications than benefits. It is always best to wait as close to your due date whenever possible. Weigh all the benefits versus all the risks with your doctor prior to considering any form of labor induction.