Can I request an elective induction?

Elective labor induction is the initiation of labor for convenience in a person with a term pregnancy who doesn't medically need the intervention. For example, if you live far from the hospital or birthing center or you have a history of rapid deliveries, a scheduled induction might help you avoid an unattended delivery. In such cases, your health care provider will confirm that your baby's gestational age is at least 39 weeks or older before induction to reduce the risk of health problems for your baby.

Can I do anything to trigger labor on my own?

Probably not.

Techniques such as exercising or having sex to induce labor aren't backed by scientific evidence. Also, avoid herbal supplements, which could harm your baby.

What are the risks?

Labor induction isn't for everyone. For example, it might not be an option if you have had a prior C-section with a classical incision or major uterine surgery, your placenta is blocking your cervix (placenta previa), or your baby is lying buttocks first (breech) or sideways (transverse lie) in your uterus.

Inducing labor also carries various risks, including:

  • Failed induction. About 75 percent of first-time mothers who are induced will have a successful vaginal delivery. This means that about 25 percent of these women, who often start with an unripened cervix, might need a C-section. Your health care provider will discuss with you the possibility of a need for a C-section.
  • Low heart rate. The medications used to induce labor — oxytocin or a prostaglandin — might cause abnormal or excessive contractions, which can diminish your baby's oxygen supply and lower your baby's heart rate.
  • Infection. Some methods of labor induction, such as rupturing your membranes, might increase the risk of infection for both mother and baby.
  • Uterine rupture. This is a rare but serious complication in which your uterus tears open along the scar line from a prior C-section or major uterine surgery. An emergency C-section is needed to prevent life-threatening complications. Your uterus might need to be removed.
  • Bleeding after delivery. Labor induction increases the risk that your uterine muscles won't properly contract after you give birth (uterine atony), which can lead to serious bleeding after delivery.

Inducing labor is a serious decision. Work with your health care provider to make the best choice for you and your baby.

June 20, 2017 See more In-depth