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 overdue by 1 to 2 weeks.
  • Your cervix hasn’t started to ripen — soften, open, and thin out — for delivery.
  • Your water has broken, but contractions haven’t started.
  • You have high blood pressure, diabetes, infection, or other 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. (If your baby is in immediate danger, we’ll do a cesarean delivery instead.)

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 may sound scary, but it’s 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

Induced labor is very common and generally safe. Some women even ask to be induced for nonmedical reasons. However, labor and childbirth are natural processes, and we typically only step in to help when it’s medically necessary.

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.