Inducing labor: When to wait, when to induce

Considering inducing labor? Understand who makes a good candidate for inducing labor and why the intervention isn't for everyone.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Nature controls most aspects of labor — but sometimes nature needs a nudge. If your health care provider decides you and your baby would benefit from delivering sooner rather than later, he or she might suggest inducing labor.

Why would I need to be induced?

Labor induction — also known as inducing labor — is the stimulation of uterine contractions during pregnancy before labor begins on its own to achieve a vaginal birth. Your health care provider might recommend inducing labor for various reasons, primarily when there's concern for a mother's health or a baby's health. For example:

  • You're approaching two weeks beyond your due date, and labor hasn't started naturally (postterm pregnancy)
  • Your water has broken, but labor hasn't begun (premature rupture of membranes)
  • You have an infection in your uterus (chorioamnionitis)
  • Your baby has stopped growing at the expected pace (fetal growth restriction)
  • There's not enough amniotic fluid surrounding the baby (oligohydramnios)
  • You have diabetes
  • You have a high blood pressure disorder
  • Your placenta peels away from the inner wall of the uterus before delivery — either partially or completely (placental abruption)
  • You have a medical condition such as kidney disease or obesity

Can I wait for labor to begin naturally?

Nature typically prepares the cervix for delivery in the most efficient, comfortable way. However, if your health care provider is concerned about your health or your baby's health or your pregnancy continues two weeks past your due date, inducing labor might be the best option.

Why the concern after two weeks? When a pregnancy lasts longer than 42 weeks, amniotic fluid might begin to decrease and there's an increased risk of having a baby significantly larger than average (fetal macrosomia). There's also an increased risk of C-section, fetal inhalation of fecal waste (meconium aspiration) and stillbirth.

June 20, 2017 See more In-depth