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Labor Induction

What Is Labor Induction?

In some cases, your health care provider may want to induce labor, or stimulate contractions, to encourage the birth of your baby. The goal is to induce labor for a vaginal birth.

Why do doctors induce labor?

If you're approaching two weeks past your due date, your doctor will likely talk about inducing you. Your doctor may also suggest induction for health reasons that require your baby to be delivered sooner to avoid complications. These include:

  • Preeclampsia or other high blood pressure problems
  • Your water breaks but labor doesn't begin
  • Infection
  • Your baby's growth is restricted
  • Your placenta separates from the uterine wall
  • Gestational diabetes
  • Other medical conditions

Some women may also elect to be induced. If you live far away from the birthing center or have a history of delivering quickly, your doctor may agree to induce you. However, you must be at least 39 weeks along to reduce any risks to your baby.

How to induce labor

Depending on your circumstances, there are a few ways your doctor can induce labor:

  • Break your water: Also called rupture of membranes, this is when your health care provider uses a small hook to create a hole in the membrane that holds your amniotic fluid. This is done if you're already dilated and your baby's head has dropped. The goal is for contractions to start within a few hours
  • Ripen the cervix: Your cervix needs to soften and thin out before it begins to open. Medications called prostaglandins are placed next your cervix to encourage this process
  • IV medications: Your health care provider may give you oxytocin to start or strengthen contractions. You will receive the medication through an IV, and your care team will monitor your baby's heart rate closely

Labor induction risk factors and complications

  • Failed induction: Although induction works for the majority of women, sometimes it doesn't stimulate labor. If your cervix hasn't ripened, your chances of induction failing are higher. If induction doesn't work, you may need to have a C-section.
  • Lower fetal heart rate: Oxytocin may cause stronger contractions, which can affect your baby's heart rate. This is why the medical team constantly monitors your baby's heart rate throughout labor and can respond quickly if needed.

Other risks are the same as those for a vaginal delivery, but your chances of experiencing these complications are slightly higher with induction. You may have a higher risk of infection the longer your membranes are ruptured. Excess bleeding after delivery is another possible complication.

How to prepare for labor induction

You can still follow your birth plan in many ways with music, mood, relaxation techniques, and support people. Just know that things may not always go as planned. Contractions, when you're induced, can be stronger and more painful than without induction. Talk to your health care provider about this if you're considering delivering without pain medication.

What to expect during labor induction

Induction is a little bit of "wait and see." Your health care provider may try one technique to stimulate contractions and then try another. Once labor begins, you will move through the stages of labor as in any delivery. Your contractions will get stronger and closer together. This process can be faster and more intense when you're induced.

Your care team will closely monitor you and your baby to determine whether a C-section or any other interventions are necessary to care for both you and your baby.

Why Choose UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital?

At Magee, we deliver nearly 9,000 babies a year. Our birthing center offers family-friendly rooms. In a normal, healthy delivery, your baby stays with you, and we have a sleep space for your partner or significant other. You have access to lactation consultants and other experts to help you through all steps of recovery and caring for your new baby.

To find out more about delivering at Magee, call 1-866-MyMagee (696-2433) to speak with a member of our staff.

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