This Is What Really Happens When You Induce Labor

If there is one thing that we think we know for certain, it is that babies come out whenever they please. This has been a fact of life throughout most of history and is still usually the case, but medical advancements have brought us to the point that labor induction is a reality. In fact, approximately a full quarter of labors are induced in Western countries (via US National Library of Medicine). Some reasons a labor may be induced include an overdue baby, complications such as preeclampsia, no contractions after the breakage of water, or that the parents live an inconvenient distance from the hospital (per RMC Health System).

There are some risks to inducing labor. In rare cases, mothers may develop low blood sodium or abnormal contractions, or their uterus may rupture (per Kid's Health). But if a doctor has decided a labor induction must be performed, it is because the benefits outweigh the risks. Giving birth naturally to an overdue baby isn't a walk in the park, either; it poses a greater risk of injuries, and studies suggest that the risk of fetal death may be reduced if labor is induced anytime after 37 weeks of gestation, rather than waiting as long as 41 weeks for labor to begin naturally (via US National Library of Medicine). So it is up to you to decide with your doctor whether natural labor or induction would be the best way to bring your baby into the world as safely as possible.

This is what happens during labor induction

Depending on your own unique circumstances, your healthcare provider may choose one or more of a variety of techniques to induce labor. They may ripen your cervix, making it softer and thinner (per Kid's Health). To do this, they may need to give you synthetic prostaglandins, which will prepare your body for delivery. They may give you a tablet to swallow, or place synthetic prostaglandins in your vagina. Alternatively, they may insert a small tube with a saline-filled balloon into your cervix (per Mayo Clinic).

If your cervix is ripened, your healthcare provider may use a plastic hook to rupture your amniotic sac, causing your water to break. They may even insert a finger through your cervix and try to separate the membrane that connects the uterus to the amniotic sac. Stripping these membranes may cause the body to produce prostaglandins naturally, which can bring on contractions (per Kid's Health). Or, to promote contractions, your health care provider may use an IV to give you Pitocin, an artificial form of oxytocin. These contractions may feel stronger than contractions from natural labor.

After inducing labor, your healthcare provider will monitor your contractions as well as your baby's heart rate. Labor may start within hours or within days, depending on your body. Most labor inductions result in a successful vaginal birth, but if an induced labor fails, the doctor may either perform another induction or a C-section (per Mayo Clinic).