Can I request an induction?

If you're interested in an elective induction, discuss it with your health care provider. If you live far from the hospital or you have a history of rapid deliveries, a scheduled induction might be warranted. Although there are exceptions, elective induction generally isn't appropriate for lifestyle or work reasons. Keep in mind that unnecessary intervention poses unnecessary risks — such as the need for a C-section. Trust your health care provider to help you make the best decision in your case.

Can I do anything to trigger labor on my own?

Probably not.

Nipple stimulation or breast massage might release the hormone oxytocin, which can lead to contractions. However, these techniques have been shown only to work if the cervix has already begun to soften, thin and dilate (favorable cervix). Further research is needed to evaluate the techniques' safety and effectiveness.

Other techniques for inducing labor — such as eating spicy food or having sex — aren't backed by scientific evidence. Get your health care provider's OK before trying any home remedies, herbal supplements or alternative treatments.

What are the risks?

Inducing labor carries various risks, including:

  • The need for a C-section. Labor induction is more likely to result in the need for a C-section — particularly if you've never given birth before and your cervix hasn't already begun to thin, soften and dilate (unfavorable cervix).
  • Premature birth. Inducing labor too early might result in a premature birth, which poses risks for the baby, such as difficulty breathing.
  • Low heart rate. The medication used to induce labor — oxytocin or a prostaglandin — might provoke too many contractions, which can diminish your baby's oxygen supply and lower your baby's heart rate.
  • Infection. Inducing labor increases the risk of infection for both mother and baby.
  • Umbilical cord problems. Inducing labor increases the risk of the umbilical cord slipping into the vagina before delivery (umbilical cord prolapse), which might compress the cord and decrease the baby's oxygen supply.
  • Uterine rupture. Uterine rupture is a rare but serious complication in which the 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.
  • 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.

Jul. 23, 2011 See more In-depth