Induction labor: FAQ

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What is an induction?

Labor is induced when it is safer for the baby to be delivered than to continue the pregnancy. It happens at different times for different reasons. In a healthy pregnancy, induction happens when a pregnant woman is overdue (41 weeks), or if her water breaks and she does not go into labor on her own. Induction can happen earlier if the mother has a medical condition or if the baby is not growing properly.


How does mother get induced?

The induction depends on pregnant woman’s cervix. If her cervix is firm and closed, she may need a step to make it ready for labor, which usually involves placing a medicated gel or insert into her vagina. Sometimes this step can be skipped if her cervix is already soft and slightly open. If the cervix is ready; oxytocin is given in an IV to start contractions. Her waters may be broken if it is not broken on their own.

How long does it take?

Induction can take hours to days. It takes longer if it is the first baby or if she need that extra step to get her cervix ready.

Are there risks?

Induction is safe for both mother and her baby, but there are some risks. Sometimes the uterus can contract too strongly or too often, which is called hyperstimulation.

If it affects the baby’s heart rate, the induction may need to be paused or stopped, or mother may even need an emergency C-section. With indication, there is a slightly increased risk of needing forceps, vacuum or a C-section compared with natural labor. If the mother had had a C-section before some of the medications used to soften the cervix can increase the risk of uterine rupture, a rare but dangerous complication. The doctor will tell other options if a pregnant woman finds herself in this position.

Are there any ‘natural’ ways to be induced?

Membrane sweeping is a quick procedure that can be done in the medical office. It’s like an intense cervical exam. The membranes are separated from the cervix by sweeping a finger around during the exam. It works by releasing prostaglandin’s that soften the cervix. Sweeping can reduce the risk of going overdue and can even start contractions, but it can be uncomfortable and cause minor bleeding.

Breast stimulation releases your natural oxytocin and can start contractions. Unfortunately, there is no agreement yet on what kind of stimulation is best or how long to do it for the best results.

Sex has also been suggested as a way to bring on labor because semen contains natural prostaglandins. More research is needed before it can be recommended, but it may help reduce the chances of going overdue. Sex is safe in pregnancy, except if pregnant woman’s water has broken, if she is at risk of early labor or if she has a condition called placenta pre via. Always consult the doctor if you aren’t sure!

Things to Know Before Inducing Labor Naturally

  1. Natural induction should only be a helping hand. You want the method to be gentle enough that you won’t go into labor if your body isn’t ready. It is not recommended before 39-40 weeks. If you do begin before then, chances are it won’t work.
  2. Don’t stress about being overdue. First-time pregnancies are up to 80% more likely to go post date, and you are not “officially” overdue until 42 weeks. Even then, a doctor cannot legally induce labor without your permission.
  3. Do your own research. Make sure you know the risks and are taking the correct amount of any herbal product. Don’t overstrain yourself with labor inducing exercises.
  4. If you aren’t sure, talk to your doctor. This is especially true if your pregnancy has been complicated or is considered high risk.

What about natural herbs?

The most common herbal remedies used for bringing on labor are the red raspberry leaf, blue cohosh, and evening primrose oil. Midwives and traditional healers have used some of these remedies for a long time, but they have not been well studied by today’s scientists. At this point, there is not enough evidence to say whether or not they work, or even if they are safe to take during pregnancy.

Herbal remedy for Induction period

The other concern with herbal medicines is that they are not well standardized, so it can be hard to know if your are getting the right dose. There may also be other compounds mixed in that you don’t know about, which may not be safe in pregnancy.

Will going for a walk bring on labor?

Unfortunately, walking has not been shown to bring on labor or to make it progress faster once it has started. However, that doesn’t mean the pregnant woman should hit the couch and wait for labor to start. Being physically active improves your strength, endurance, and mood, which will help you cope with the stress of labor.


Article by Andrea Skorenki MD in

Vijaya Sawant

Vijaya Sawant is an exceptional project management professional with a unique blend of business, project management and technology skills. She has more than 25 years of latest technology implementation experience in both matrix and projectile environment. She has a first-rate track record of successfully spearheading and delivering a broad range of high impact, high profile projects, including leadership of multi-national, multi-vendor teams. She has demonstrated ability to bring about positive change through crafting relationships with multi stakeholder groups and service delivery groups, understanding business needs and proposing and delivering viable technology solutions.

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