Welcome to your birth month and what to know about labor induction

by Kaiser Permanente |
Millennial pregnant couple lying down on bed together.

At 40 weeks most people feel ready but nervous for labor to start. About 50% of first-time parents give birth by 40 weeks and 5 days. About 75% give birth by 41 weeks and 2 days. For people who have had a baby before, about 50% are likely to be give birth by 40 weeks and 3 days and 75% give birth by week 41.

As statistics show, it’s not uncommon to go past your due date. For some your baby could even be close to two weeks past due. As you get farther past your due date your clinician might ask you to consider being induced.

Clinicians may recommend an induction if you’ve been pregnant for close to two weeks past your due date. It’s also possible to have labor induced if there is a medical concern for you or your baby, or if your amniotic sac breaks but labor doesn’t start.

Some common medical conditions that may make induction necessary include:

  • Having diabetes that needs medication use
  • Hypertension before pregnancy or that develops during pregnancy
  • Having a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or more at the beginning of your pregnancy
  • You are over age 40 at the time of expected due date
  • There are concerns about small fetal size or low fluid in the amniotic sac

Labor induction

Simply put, labor induction is the process of jump starting the birthing process. There are several ways to induce labor, such as:

  • Using a balloon catheter to dilate your cervix
  • Taking medications to help your cervix soften and thin, or to cause your uterus to contract
  • Breaking the amniotic sac to start labor. Only your clinician performs this procedure

For some, a procedure called sweeping of the membranes can help jump start your labor without being admitted to the hospital. During an in-office cervical exam, your clinician will separate the amniotic membrane from the lower portion of your uterus with a sweeping, circular motion. This stimulates your body to make early labor hormones that can aid in triggering labor contractions. When it works, labor usually starts 24 to 72 hours after the procedure.

You might also help the labor process start naturally by:

  • Exercising
  • Having sex
  • Receiving acupuncture

There is little evidence that you can get labor started by:

  • Eating spicy foods
  • Drinking red raspberry leaf tea
  • Eating pineapple

Labor augmentation

Unlike induced labor, labor augmentation only occurs if you’ve begun active labor that later slows down or stops. It’s also possible to augment labor if the uterus isn’t contracting even though the bag of waters was broken.

When to contact your care team

As you approach your birth day (or due date), let your care team know immediately if:

  • Your baby doesn’t move as much as normal. Your baby should move at least 10 times in two hours
  • Your water breaks
  • You are having vaginal bleeding

If it’s your first baby, let your clinician know when your contractions are 3 to 5 minutes apart for over 1 hour and strong enough that you cannot talk when they are happening. If you’ve already had children, you should contact your clinician when your contractions are very strong and 5 to 7 minutes apart over the course of an hour.

Smith, Gordon C. S. "Use of Time to Event Analysis to Estimate the Normal Duration of Human Pregnancy | Human Reproduction | Oxford Academic." OUP Academic, academic.oup.com, 1 July 2001, https://academic.oup.com/humrep/article/16/7/1497/693431.

This article has been created by a national group of Kaiser Permanente ob-gyns, certified nurse-midwives, pediatricians, lactation consultants and other specialists who came together to provide you with the best pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and newborn information.

Some of the content is used and adapted with permission of The Permanente Medical Group.