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What Are the Risks of Inducing Labor?

Generally, inducing labor is safe, but there are risks:

Higher risk of a C-section. If induction doesn't work, your doctor might decide to switch to a C-section instead.

Longer hospital stay. If you're induced, you'll be in the hospital longer during labor and delivery. If you wind up needing a C-section after induction, your time in the hospital will be even longer.

Increased need for pain medicine. Inducing labor might cause contractions to come on stronger and more often than they would naturally. You're more likely to need an epidural or another medicine to manage the pain.

Increased risk of infection. Breaking the amniotic sac can lead to infection if you don't deliver within a day or two after induction.

Health problems for your baby. Women who are induced often have babies born a little early -- between the 37th and 39th weeks. Early babies can have problems with breathing and other things. They might have a higher risk of long-term developmental problems.

Complications during delivery. Induction, especially with medications, might not be safe for women who’ve had a previous C-section or other surgery to the uterus. They have a higher risk of uterine rupture. Intense contractions also cause the placenta to detach from the wall of the uterus, called placental abruption. Both of these conditions are serious but rare, even with induction.

If your doctor or midwife recommends induction, ask questions. You want to be absolutely sure that it's the best decision for your health and your baby's health.

Can I Induce Labor Myself?

Tales abound of home remedies that supposedly bring on labor, but there is no scientific evidence to back them up. These methods include: 

  • Having sex
  • Gently stimulating your nipples
  • Herbal remedies including blue or black cohosh (some herbs can be dangerous if you don’t use them properly)
  • Drinking small amounts of castor oil
  • Walking

Don’t try any of these home methods without first talking to your doctor or midwife. Some could pose risks.