Induction of Labor

A pitocin drip in labor
Photo © Marilyn Nieves/Getty Images

Induction of labor is when labor is forcefully started before it naturally begins on its own. This is done for a variety of reasons discussed below, but it is a decision that you make with your doctor or midwife, usually later in your pregnancy. (There are a few instances when you might know earlier in your pregnancy that an induction might be the best thing for you or your baby.) 

Why is Labor Induced?

Labor can be induced for many reasons.

Labor should only be induced for valid medical reasons because of the risks involved with induction of labor. Some of these medical reasons include:

What is a Social Induction of Labor?

A social induction is also known as an induction for convenience of either the doctor, the midwife or the family or it is known as an elective induction. It may be done to get the practitioner that you want, to aid in family scheduling or to try to pick a certain birth date. This is highly discouraged due to the added risks of induction of labor, including having your baby need additional intervention at birth or assistance with breathing. Labor induction for any should not be considered until after 39 weeks when possible.

What are the Risks of Inducing Your Labor?

The risks of inducing labor are numerous, which is why there should be a clear and specific benefit to outweigh these risks for you or your baby. They can include:

  • Increased risk of premature baby, even if you believe your baby is term

The medical staff assisting you will work to reduce the risks where possible. This may mean additional monitoring (including blood pressure monitoring and fetal monitoring) or medications to ensure you and baby stay as healthy as possible. When induction is needed for medical reasons, the benefits of induction outweigh these risks. This is a decision between you and your practitioner.

How is Labor Induced?

Labor can be induced a number of ways. Some of the more common methods include:

Natural Methods of Labor Induction:

Many women are turning towards more natural methods of labor induction with some success.

The definition of natural really varies in terms of the level of intervention required. The most common home induction tricks can include:

Augmentation of Labor:

Sometimes labor stalls or is delayed. If the health of the mother or baby need labor to continue more quickly, your practitioner may prescribe an augmentation of your labor. There are multiple methods of augmentation, including the use of Pitocin, amniotomy and other natural techniques.

If induction of labor is brought up, be sure to ask your practitioner a few questions. Questions to consider include:

  1. Why are you recommending an induction of labor?
  2. Are there any alternatives to induction of labor?
  3. What would happen if I were to wait for labor to begin naturally?
  4. Is there some additional testing that we can do?
  5. What does induction of labor look like for your practice? For my situation? What methods would be used?
  6. What are the risks of induction for me personally? For my baby?
  7. If there are added risks, what can we do to mitigate them?
  8. Can I have some time alone to think about this and talk to my partner?

These conversations are important for you, your baby, and your practitioner. This will help make sure that everyone understands what is going on and what's the best thing for you and your baby.


Gülmezoglu AM, Crowther CA, Middleton P, Heatley E. Induction of labour for improving birth outcomes for women at or beyond term. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2012, Issue 6. Art. No.: CD004945. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD004945.pub3

Jozwiak M, Bloemenkamp KWM, Kelly AJ, Mol BWJ, Irion O, Boulvain M. Mechanical methods for induction of labour. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2012, Issue 3. Art. No.: CD001233. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD001233.pub2

Obstetrics: Normal and Problem Pregnancies. Gabbe, S, Niebyl, J, Simpson, JL. Fifth Edition.

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