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Inducing Labor

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Reasons Not to Induce continued...

Some doctors recommend "elective" inductions for non-medical reasons. Maybe you live far from the hospital and your doctor worries that you won't get there in time. Or maybe your doctor asks you to accommodate his or her schedule. Experts say you should reconsider, though. Because induction poses some risks, experts say that women shouldn't be induced unless it's medically necessary.

You also don’t want to be induced too early. Babies born before 39 weeks are more likely to have health problems, longer hospital stays, and time in neonatal intensive care.

How Is Labor Induced?

There are a few ways a doctor or midwife can induce your labor. These are listed from most to least common.

Stripping the membranes. In this procedure, your doctor or midwife will use a gloved finger to gently separate the amniotic sac from the wall of the uterus. This releases hormones that can trigger contractions. You can get it done in your doctor's or midwife's office. It can be uncomfortable.

Afterward, you will probably go home to wait for contractions. You might have cramping and spotting.

Studies disagree about how well membrane stripping works. Considering that and the discomfort it causes, talk over the pros and cons with your doctor or midwife beforehand. 

Hormones. At the hospital, your doctor will give you hormones called prostaglandins to open the cervix and trigger contractions. If you’ve had a C-section in the past, your doctor will not use this treatment, because it raises the risk of uterine rupture.

Mechanical dilation. Another way your doctor or midwife triggers labor is with a balloon catheter. At the hospital, your doctor inserts a thin tube through your vagina into your cervical opening. Then the doctor uses water to inflate the balloon at the end of the tube, causing your cervix to expand.

Medications. The medicine Pitocin (oxytocin) can start contractions. You get this at the hospital through an IV tube in your arm. Your doctor or midwife starts with a small dose and gradually increases it until your contractions are strong and frequent enough for your baby to be born.

Some women go into labor and deliver within a few hours after induction. Others take 1 or 2 days to start labor.

If none of these methods starts your labor, you'll most likely need a C-section, especially if your water has broken.

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