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Labor Induction and Augmentation - Topic Overview

Labor induction

As the end of pregnancy nears, the cervix normally becomes soft (ripe) and begins to open (dilate) and thin (efface), preparing for labor and delivery. When labor does not naturally start on its own and vaginal delivery needs to happen soon, labor may be started artificially (induced).

Even though inducing labor is a fairly common practice, childbirth educators encourage women to learn about it and about the medicine for stimulating a stalled labor (augmentation) so that the women can help decide what is right for them.

When labor is induced for medical reasons, it is usually because it's safer for you to have the baby now rather than risk further problems from staying pregnant.

Your labor may be induced for one of the following reasons:

  • Your pregnancy has gone 1 to 2 weeks past the estimated due date.
  • You have a condition (such as high blood pressure, placenta abruptio, infection, lung disease, preeclampsia, or diabetes) that may threaten your health or the health of your baby if the pregnancy continues.1
  • Your water (amniotic sac) has broken but active labor contractions have not started.
  • Your baby has a condition that needs treatment, and the risks of vaginal delivery are low. Induction and vaginal delivery are not attempted if the baby may be harmed or is in immediate danger. In such cases, a cesarean delivery (C-section) is usually done.

Some women ask to have their labor induced when there isn't a medical reason for it (elective induction). And sometimes doctors will induce labor for nonmedical reasons, such as if you live far away from the hospital and may not make it to the hospital if you go into labor. In these situations, your doctor will wait until you are at least 39 weeks, because this is safest for your baby.

When labor does not happen as expected or as needed, inducing labor is preferred over delivering by cesarean section. If labor induction isn't successful, another attempt may be possible. In some cases, a cesarean delivery is best for the mother and baby, depending on their conditions.

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