What is the need for inducing labor?

Inducing labor may be needed if there are obstetric complications. Doctors will induce labor if there is a medical condition of the mother that warrants delivery a bit early such as diabetes or high blood pressure. Also, if you don’t deliver by one to two weeks after your due date, most doctors would induce labor. At times, labor has also been induced just because it is more convenient. These are called elective inductions of labor. If this does occur, it is important to make sure that you have reached your 39th week of pregnancy and that your cervix is ripe. Earlier delivery of a healthy baby may impart a higher risk of respiratory and other difficulties. Induction of labor if the cervix is not ripe will increase the chance of cesarean delivery.

Dr. Deborah Raines, MSN
Nursing Specialist

The decision to induce labor needs to be based on a medical need of the woman or the fetus. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), labor should be induced only when it is more risky for the baby to remain inside the mother's uterus than to be born. Some possible reason for inducing labor may be:

  • The pregnancy is extending beyond the due date and labor has not started naturally.
  • The amniotic sac has ruptured, but uterine contractions have not started.
  • There is an infection in the uterus.
  • Fetal growth has stopped or is slower than expected
  • There are signs that the placenta is not functioning effectively or is deteriorating.
  • The woman develops a medical condition that puts her health or the fetus’ health at risk.

 It is important to remember that a labor induction has risks and therefore it should not be used simple for convenience.

Sometimes, a doctor or midwife might need to induce (bring about) labor. The decision to induce labor often is made when a woman is past her due date but labor has not yet begun or when there is concern about the baby or mother's health. Some specific reasons why labor might be induced include:

  • A woman's water has broken (ruptured membranes), but labor has not begun on its own Infection inside the uterus
  • Baby is growing too slowly
  • Complications that arise when the mother's Rh factor is negative and her unborn baby's is positive
  • Not enough amniotic fluid
  • Complications, such as high blood pressure or preeclampsia
  • Health problems in the mother, such as kidney disease or diabetes

The doctor or midwife can use medicines and other methods to open a pregnant woman's cervix, stimulate contractions and prepare for vaginal birth. Inducing labor increases a woman's chance of cesarean delivery. So you will want to make sure with your doctor that the benefits of inducing labor outweigh the risks of continuing the pregnancy.

This answer is based on source information from the National Women's Health Information Center.

Paula Greer
Midwifery Nursing Specialist

There are two types of categories of inductions of labor.

Medical indications is the first. This means that there is a medical reason for the labor to be induced that either benefits the well-being of the mom or her baby. This benefit outweighs the risks of any complications that might arise from the induction itself.

Elective or social is the second category of induction of labor. This is sometimes done because dad is being deployed, mom’s family is coming from out of town or any social considerations that have made mom want to take the risks that come from induction to deliver her baby.

Medical inductions may be done for things like moms blood pressure, diabetes, baby being postdates or very overdue, the baby is not growing properly or any medical indication that determines it is better for mom or the baby to have the baby on the outside instead of the inside.

Social inductions are sometimes done for special considerations of the mom. They should not be done for just provider convenience. Social inductions are not done prior to 39 weeks as it important that baby doesn’t come too early. Inductions to have an increased risk for cesarean section and other complications.

If your provider is telling you that you need to be induced make sure to ask why the procedure is necessary and what the risks versus the benefits are. Remember your provider will consider the risks to both you and the baby before scheduling any procedure that would increase your risks.

Many women remain pregnant past week 40. It is not necessarily dangerous to the baby, though, so your doctor may let you wait a week or so to see if labor comes naturally. After two weeks, or if there is a condition like low amniotic fluid, your doctor will induce your labor, depending on if your cervix is ready and how seriously you need to be induced. If your doctor waits longer than 2 weeks, the placenta becomes less nourishing for the baby and there is a higher chance of complications.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.