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 an induction?

Your health care provider might recommend inducing labor for various reasons, primarily when there's concern for your health or your baby's health. For example:

  • You're approaching two weeks beyond your due date, and labor hasn't started naturally
  • Your water has broken, but you're not having contractions
  • There's an infection in your uterus
  • Your baby has stopped growing at the expected pace
  • There's not enough amniotic fluid surrounding the baby (oligohydramnios)
  • Your placenta has begun to deteriorate
  • The placenta peels away from the inner wall of the uterus before delivery — either partially or completely (placental abruption)
  • You have a medical condition that might put you or your baby at risk, such as high blood pressure or diabetes

Can I wait for labor to begin naturally?

Up to two weeks after your due date, a wait-and-see approach might be preferable. Nature 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? The longer your pregnancy continues, the larger your baby is likely to be — which might complicate a vaginal delivery. In a few cases, aging of the placenta might compromise a baby's ability to thrive in the womb. An overdue baby is also more likely to inhale fecal waste (meconium) during childbirth, which can cause breathing problems or a lung infection after birth.

Jul. 23, 2011 See more In-depth