Most women go into labor spontaneously near their due date and will not require induction of labor. However, there are conditions and complications of pregnancy that may require the baby to be delivered before the spontaneous onset of contractions. Some of the common conditions include, but are not limited to, prolonged pregnancy (> 42 weeks gestation), gestational diabetes, gestational hypertension, preeclampsia, low amniotic fluid levels or leaking fluid, and advanced maternal age in women age 40 and above. Some patients may elect to be induced without medical indication from 39 weeks onward. It is generally not advisable to induce labor prior to 39 weeks unless medically necessary due to a complication of pregnancy. The risks of continuing a pregnancy to mother and/or baby must always be weighed against the risks of delivering a baby prior to the spontaneous onset of labor.
If your physician feels you need to be induced, a cervical exam will be performed to determine the method of induction. Medical treatments that can be used to induce labor when indicated include the following:
Membrane Stripping – typically done in the office as an intensive cervical exam that involves the practitioner sweeping their gloved finger between the membranes of the amniotic sac in the uterus, separating the sac and stimulating prostaglandins to induce labor
Cervical Ripening Agents – hormone-mimicking medications known as prostagladins which soften cervix and prepare it for labor
Mechanical Dilators – balloons that are inserted into the cervix and help the cervix open via stretching
Amniotomy – artificially breaking the “bag of water” to allow leakage of fluid and start contractions
Pitocin Infusion – IV Administration of synthetic oxytocin, the hormone secreted in labor to start regular contractions
Your provider will discuss induction of labor with you. Benefits, risks, and detailed instructions will be reviewed at that time.