Sometimes, a doctor or midwife might need to induce (bring about) labor. The decision to induce labor often is made when a woman is past her due date but labor has not yet begun or when there is concern about the baby's or mother's health. Some specific reasons why labor might be induced include:
The doctor or midwife can use medicines and other methods to open a pregnant woman's cervix, stimulate contractions, and prepare for vaginal birth.
Elective labor induction has become more common in recent years. This is when labor is induced at term but for no medical reason. Some doctors may suggest elective induction due to a woman’s discomfort, scheduling issues, or concern that waiting may lead to complications. But the benefits and harms of elective induction are not well understood. For instance, we do not know if elective labor induction leads to higher or lower rates of cesarean delivery compared to waiting for labor to start on its own. Yet, doctors have ways to assess risk of cesarean delivery, such as a woman’s age, whether it is her first pregnancy, and the status of her cervix. Elective induction (not before 39 weeks) does not appear to affect the health of the baby.
If your doctor suggests inducing labor, talk to your doctor about the possible harms and benefits for both mother and baby, such as the risk of c-section and the risk of low birth weight. You will want to be sure the benefits of inducing labor outweigh the risks of induction and the risks of continuing the pregnancy.
Source: WomensHealth.gov, Office of Women's Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Content last updated Sept. 27, 2010.