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Medical Induction of Labor

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Mar 2, 2022.

What is medical induction of labor?

Medical induction of labor is a procedure to induce (start) your labor before it begins on its own. Medicines are used to start contractions and help your cervix soften, thin, and dilate (open).

Why would I need medical induction of labor?

  • Danger to your unborn child: You may need labor induced if your baby has stopped growing or his heartbeat is too slow. Problems with your amniotic fluid levels or your placenta are other reasons you may need labor induced.
  • Different blood types: Induction may be done if your blood type does not match your unborn baby's blood type. Different blood types may cause your unborn baby to become sick.
  • Health problems: Your labor may need to be induced before your due date if you have certain health problems. Examples are bleeding, diabetes, or high blood pressure.
  • Past your due date: When your pregnancy goes past your due date, you and your unborn baby may be at risk for problems. An induction may allow for a safe delivery. Ask your caregiver how long you can safely carry your baby in your uterus after your due date.
  • Previous stillbirth: Labor may be induced if an unborn baby died in your uterus during a past pregnancy.
  • Premature rupture of membranes: You may need labor induced when your amniotic fluid sac (water) breaks before your due date.

What happens before medical induction of labor?

  • Medicines:
    • Antibiotics: These may be given to prevent an infection.
    • Steroid medicine: These may be needed to help your unborn baby's lungs develop faster.
  • Tests:
    • Vaginal exam: Your caregiver will check your cervix to see if it is dilating (opening).
    • Cervical fluid swab: This is done to check and see if you are close to delivering your baby.
    • Fetal heart monitoring: This is done to monitor your unborn baby's heartbeat before, during, and after induction.
    • Ultrasound: An ultrasound uses sound waves to show pictures of your cervix on a monitor. It shows if your cervix is softening and thinning.

What happens during medical induction of labor?

Medical induction of labor may include the following medicines:

  • Prostaglandins: This helps soften and thin your cervix. A gel is put into your vagina and on your cervix. It may also be given as a pill.
  • Oxytocin: This is used to start labor. It causes contractions to start and stay strong and regular. This is given through your IV.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

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What happens after medical induction of labor?

You will need to stay in the hospital until you deliver your baby. You and your unborn baby will be watched closely for problems. Your caregiver will check your cervix often to check the progress of your labor. Do not get out of bed unless your caregiver says it is okay.

What are the risks of medical induction of labor?

  • Medical induction of labor may cause your contractions to be stronger, longer, or occur more often. Your unborn baby's heartbeat may slow, putting him at risk for problems. Caregivers may need tools, such as forceps, to help deliver your baby. Medical induction may cause an infection or bleeding that may be life-threatening for you and your unborn baby. Your uterus may rupture if you have had a cesarean section (C-section) before. Amniotic fluid may leak into your blood and cause you to have lung, heart, and bleeding problems. Medical induction may increase your risk for a C-section.
  • If your unborn baby has stopped growing in your uterus, your baby may die without an induction. If labor is not induced, your baby may continue to grow and cause your vagina to tear. You may need a C-section. High blood pressure or other health problems may get worse without induction.

When should I contact my caregiver?

Contact your caregiver if:

  • You have a fever.

When should I seek immediate care?

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • You are bleeding from your vagina.
  • You have fluid leaking from your vagina.
  • You have strong abdominal pain.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Treatment options

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.