A labor induction is meant to start contractions to induce labor. However, a lot of it depends on your cervix, and how your body responds to oxytocin. Let’s talk about why they do it, and why you might want one.
Hi, I’m Hilary — The Pregnancy Nurse 👩⚕️. I have been a nurse since 1997 and I have 20 years of OB nursing experience, I am also the curly head behind Pulling Curls and The Online Prenatal Class for Couples. 🩺 I have helped thousands of moms start inductions, as well as having two of my own inductions. I know it can be scary to do — but it doesn’t need to be when you learn what they are.
I actually recommend my class Labor Made Easy that quickly goes through labor inductions and what to expect during one. It’s a pretty comprehensive topic and that class gets you through all of it in about 20 minutes, and is under $20.
Introduction: What is Labor Induction and When Should It Be Used?
Labor induction is the process of starting labor artificially. Labor induction is usually begun when a pregnant woman’s cervix is dilated a bit, but aren’t in labor. Labor induction can be used to start labor for many reasons, including:
- To avoid going past your due date (or past 42 weeks which is considered unsafe)
- To avoid maternal or fetal complications (or to stop them if they’re starting)
- To reduce pain associated with prolonged pregnancy
I have a whole post on why an induction might be indicated at 37 weeks. I go into this topic a bit in my FREE Beginning Prenatal Class. We talk about third trimester testing, that often ends with an induction being recommended.
What is the Role of the Contractions?
Essentially, contractions push your baby into the birth canal and out of your body.
Your uterus is a muscle and it will push the baby out when it is ready.
You will likely also have some Braxton-Hicks, which is your uterus practicing contracting. These can also help soften your cervix so it is prepared when actual labor starts.
What Causes Labor to start?
Labor induction can be started in several ways. The main ways are:
Physical Means of Induction
Most often this is:
- Rupture of your bag of waters (or amniotic sac)– your doctor uses a fancy crochet-hook looking thing to break it and let the water out. Also called a amniotomy.
- Stripping the membranes — done in the office by your doctor — they put their finger between your bag of waters and your cervix.
- Insertion of a foley bulb — stretches the cervix through pressure
Medication means of induction:
There are a few of these as well:
- Cervidil — a tiny tampon-like thing that lays next to your cervix
- Cytotec — a tiny pill given in a variety of ways
- Prostin Gel — a gel put next to your cervix
- Pitocin — given through your IV
All of those are hormones that work in different ways to help your body start to contract.
The first three or prostaglandins that help cervical ripening, and then post often you move to pitocin after you’ve tried those and advanced your cervix past 3 cm.
We actually go in depth into these different ways that inductions happen in Inductions Made Easy, so if you want more information on HOW you get induced, it is DEFINITELY the class for you!
Why Do They Induce People?
There are a lot of different reasons, and it really only matters what reason they want to induce you for, but some of them are:
- Issues with the umbilical cored or placenta (often making baby too small)
- Baby being too big (you may not be able to have a vaginal delivery if baby is too large)
- Low amniotic fluid
- Broken amniotic sac (there is a risk of infection if baby is not born soon)
- High blood pressure
- Gestational Diabetes
Elective inductions are done without a medical reason and are normally only allowed after 39 weeks of pregnancy (and may be subject to provider/hospital availability).
Make sure that you talk with your provider about their reason for inducing labor for you. It is important that you understand that before it happens.
How Should you Prepare Your Body for Labor?
What you eat:
Make sure that you’re “eating across the rainbow” and balancing carbs and protein. Keeping your body healthy and fulfilled is really important throughout pregnancy and before an induction. Eat something you will enjoy that will also give you energy for your labor.
What you should do:
I have a whole post on what you should do the day before your induction.
What will happen:
It is really important to know what to expect as you head into labor. It’s almost like riding a roller coaster in the dark –which is only fun at Disneyland.
And we go into exactly what to expect during an induction in Inductions Made Easy as well. It’s a bit too much for this article, but there are definitely some things to be aware of
How is an induced labor different than “natural” labor?
Because you will be in the hospital from the minute your start labor, you will be tracking it from the beginning, rather than just being somewhat uncomfortable at home (and not sure if it is labor).
In the hospital, it is important that they mnonitor your baby’s heart rate. This can sometimes limit movement, but if you’re ready to work around it in the hospital you can still often move quite a bit.
Conclusion – Start Preparing Yourself for Labor – Get Ready for a Positive Experience!
One of the most important things you can do is set positive intentions for your birth. While saying affirmations out loud can feel crazy, I know they can really help. Try out some of these:
- My delivery will be a happy, exciting day.
- I will have a great induction, my body knows just what to do.
- I trust my doctor to help me make the best choices for my baby and myself.
- My healthcare team has my best interests at heart.
I know when we keep things positive instead of scary, it can really help things turn out better.
Now, I did recommend my Inductions made Easy Class, but I have to be really honest that is a VERY small piece of the labor puzzle. I totally recommend joining The Online Prenatal Class for Couples. In just a few hours we can prepare you for a confident hospital birth (and it also has a whole chapter on inductions).
- About the Author
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A nurse since 1997, she has worked in various fields including pediatrics, geriatrics & hospice. She has 20 years of labor and delivery experience in the San Jose, CA and Phoenix, AZ areas.
As an evidence-based prenatal educator Hilary has delivered thousands of babies and has educated hundreds of thousands of parents from a diverse patient population to help them have a confident birth.