Inducing labor

woman in labor standing

If labor doesn’t happen naturally, we might need to help your body get the process started. These are some common reasons we might need to induce labor:

  • Your baby is 1 to 2 weeks overdue.
  • Your water has broken, but contractions haven’t started.
  • You have high blood pressure, diabetes, an infection, or another condition that’s a threat to you or your baby’s health.
  • Your baby needs medical treatment, but the risks of vaginal delivery are low.
  • Other risks to you or your baby would be reduced if your baby was delivered.

Unless there’s a medical risk to the parent or baby, all inductions are done after 39 weeks. There are several ways to induce labor. Your care team will decide which method to use based on the condition of your cervix. Sometimes, more than one method is used.

If your cervix hasn’t started to ripen, we might:

  • Open it manually, using a narrow tube with a balloon at the end.
  • Use medication to ripen your cervix for delivery.

If your cervix is somewhat dilated but you’re not having contractions, we might:

  • Sweep the membranes using a gloved finger to separate the amniotic membrane from the uterus. This can help your body produce a chemical that starts contractions naturally.
  • Rupture the amniotic sac with a small, sterile tool. This is usually painless.
  • Give you an IV infusion of Pitocin — a synthetic version of oxytocin, a hormone your body makes naturally that triggers contractions.
  • Use an oral or vaginal pill to help soften your cervix and start contractions.
  • Use a soft balloon to gently stretch your cervix open

If we think there’s a chance that you’ll need to be induced, we’ll talk about your options in advance. If it comes up when you’re already in the hospital, we’ll help you decide what’s right for you and your baby.