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What Is Labor Induction?

If your doctor or midwife has concerns about your health or your baby’s health toward the end of your pregnancy, they might suggest speeding up the process. This is called inducing labor, or induction. Instead of waiting for labor to start naturally, your doctor or midwife will use drugs or a procedure to start it sooner.

Induction can be the right choice for some women, but it has risks.And it doesn’t always work. If it doesn’t, you may need another induction or a c-section. Most experts say it’s best to let labor begin on its own and progress naturally unless there’s a clear medical reason.

Why Is Labor Induced?

Induction is very common — 1 out of 4 women in the U.S. starts labor with induction. Many times it’s done for medical reasons, but it can be elective.

Why do some women need to have labor induced?

  • You’re 1-2 weeks past your due date. Studies show that inducing labor at 39 weeks doesn’t raise the risk for having a C-section or birth complications for the baby. After 41 weeks, you and your baby are at greater risk for complications. Being a little “late” isn’t a reason to induce. You also don’t want to be induced too early. Babies born before 39 weeks are more likely to have health problems, longer hospital stays, and time in neonatal intensive care.
  • Your water breaks but labor doesn’t start. Once your water breaks, you and your baby have a higher risk of infection. You might not need induction right away, though. Check with your doctor or midwife. Sometimes it’s still safe to let labor begin on its own. After your water breaks, your doctor will limit the number of vaginal exams performed because of the potential for infection. 
  • A problem puts you or your baby’s health at risk.Examples are infection (chorioamnionitis), too little amniotic fluid (oligohydramnios), and placental abruption. If you have conditions like diabeteshigh blood pressurepreeclampsia, or eclampsia, your doctor or midwife might want to induce labor.
  • If your baby isn’t growing as it should be, or has an abnormalheart rate, your doctor or midwife might want to induce labor.

Some doctors recommend “elective” inductions for non-medical reasons. Maybe you live far from the hospital and your doctor worries that you won’t get there in time. Or maybe your doctor asks you to accommodate their schedule. Experts say you should reconsider, though. Because induction poses some risks, experts say that women shouldn’t be induced unless it’s medically necessary.



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