Email this page to a friend
Advice to help you navigate labor induction, if it's recommended for you
By Paula Ford-Martin
Babies seem to have a problem with punctuality — they’re very rarely born right on their due dates. In fact, sometimes your womb provides such a cozy, warm home, baby may be reluctant to leave. If that happens (or in the case of certain pregnancy complications), your healthcare provider may use a series of procedures known as labor induction to start contractions and labor. Each year in the US, 23% of women pregnant with just one baby have their labor induced. Here’s some advice to help you navigate induction, if it happens to you.
- Expect the unexpected. Induced labor can be different than labor that comes on in its own time. Contractions may be more frequent, though this isn’t true for every woman (and most who do report an intense labor say they would still have chosen to be induced). Also, sometimes labor doesn’t progress during an induction and a C-section is ultimately still required. It’s good to learn about C-sections in advance so you can be prepared for this possibility.
- Have patience. Like all labor and delivery experiences, inductions have no one-size-fits-all time frame. In fact, it can take from just a few hours up to 2 days for labor to start and you to meet baby. Make sure your hospital packing list includes distractions and comforts for yourself and your companion (like snacks!) to keep you content if your induction takes time or the resulting labor is a long one. Since you may not be permitted to eat during the process, be sure to have a solid meal ahead of time.
- Take time to understand why. Talk to your provider about the reasons for your induction and to get comfortable with the planned procedures. Ask what will happen before and during and how they expect you and your baby to respond. Check with your provider about pain relief in advance, as well, especially if you’re concerned about how you might cope with labor pain. Depending on the methods used for induction and pain relief, you may be confined to bed; if you feel strongly about being mobile during labor, talk to your provider about this, too.
- Skip the DIY. Don’t try to induce yourself unless the steps you’re taking are something you’d do anyway. Though various methods are popularly discussed, there’s no scientific evidence that having sex, drinking raspberry leaf tea, acupuncture treatments, taking castor oil, or other alternative methods will get childbirth started (and castor oil is actually shown to cause nausea, among other symptoms). Breast stimulation boosts oxytocin, which can cause contractions, but the jury’s still out on whether it’s effective or safe for getting labor started.
Want to know the nitty-gritty of what happens when you’re induced? Here’s what to expect in labor induction.
Published on December 30, 2015.
Paula Ford-Martin has authored more than a dozen consumer health and parenting books, including the bestselling Everything Pregnancy Book, 4th edition, and The Only Pregnancy Book You’ll Ever Need.
Reviewed by Elisabeth Aron, MD, MPH, FACOG on November 14, 2015.