Inducing labor

Inducing labor (labor induction) is a procedure in which a doctor or midwife uses methods to stimulate uterine contractions to help go into labor.

You may wonder how does suddenly the woman goes into labor and pain as they show in movies. In real life, the climax is not that spontaneous, and instead, a woman goes into labor gradually. If a pregnant mother does not undergo natural labor then doctors adopt techniques for inducing labor artificially.

By the end of the second trimester, you start experiencing what are known as Braxton Hicks. They are false contractions that prepare your muscles for the day. As your due date approaches the contractions to become stronger and frequent. And finally when the contractions are rhythmic and pulsating then you reach active labor.

The screaming and pain of active labor are because of rapid contraction of the uterine muscles. Oxytocin hormone is responsible for these strong contractions that push the baby out.

What is inducing labor?

Labor induction is artificial or medically intervened start of labor. The reasons can be paused labor, fetal distress, or unconsciousness of the mother.

Some women willingly opt for such procedures that may even require artificial rupture of membranes. In that case, the procedure is elective. Nowadays it is common to induce labor to prevent long labor time.

Inducing labor: When and How Labor Is Induced
Inducing labor: When and How Labor Is Induced

Reasons for inducing labor

As mentioned above there are many reasons that answer why to induce labor. When do you need inducing labor? If the labor ceases or when the contractions don’t pick up you need induction.

1) Fetal distress

If there is any sign of the fetus being under stress then the doctor immediately does labor induction. It is possible that the baby is not receiving enough oxygen or the cord is choking.

2) Labor complications

When the mother’s blood pressure rises up or she has preeclampsia then inducing labor is common. It is a precautionary measure to prevent the death of either of them.

3) Prolonged gestational period

If the baby remains inside the womb for more than 40 weeks induced labor will prevent mishaps. After 40 weeks the babyfaces nutritional deprivation. The placenta is not enough to meet the need.

4) Elective induction of labor

If the mother wants to have quick childbirth she can get induced labor.


In cases where a woman tries to give birth vaginally after the C section, she does a TOLAC. The trial of labor after cesarean may need naturally inducing labor.

6) No labor contractions long after mucus plug fall off

If the pregnancy water breaks and mucus plug comes off but labor does not start then doctors induce labor. The period of waiting after pregnant water leaking is about 24-48 hours.

7) Uterine problems

The infectious uterus or compromised uterus need inducing labor

8) Emergency

In certain cases of unexpected events during labor doctor administers medications for inducing labor. The birth process becomes faster and is helpful in saving lives.

How to induce labor?

Ways to induce labor can either be natural or those that need medical intervention. Either way, inducing labor is not better than natural labor when there is a low-risk healthy pregnancy.

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend that induction of labor should only be when there is some risk in waiting. When the risks of continuing naturally outweigh the risk of inducing labor only then doctors resort to it.

How to Induce labor?

Naturally, the hormone oxytocin releases in great amounts during childbirth. It is responsible for rhythmic contractions of the uterus muscles.

You may have read about Pitocin administration during labor. What is Pitocin? It is artificial oxytocin.

1) Using medications such as Pitocin and prostaglandins

Vaginal suppositories of prostaglandin induce labor in around 12 hours. When the prostaglandins placed in the vagina reach the circulation they lead to contractions. Syntocinon and Pitocin are medicinal names of oxytocin. Pregnant women get the artificial oxytocin through IV. They may also take oxytocin through inhalation.

Earlier it was a notion that artificial oxytocin does not cross the blood-brain barrier. Thus the emotional or mental benefits of soothing and inducing drowsiness would be absent. But after research, it was clear that oxytocin through IV or snorted reaches the brain too.

2) Rupture of membranes

The amniotic sac ruptures to allow the baby’s head to lodge in the cervix. When the head reaches the lower bottom it sends feedback for the release of oxytocin.

A popular method of inducing labor is to rupture the membrane and release the water. A sterile pincer or needle pricks the membrane which bursts and the baby’s head positions for labor.

Some doctors discourage artificial rupture of membranes. It can lead to infections and is not a good choice. Unless a doctor does it you must never try rupturing the membrane yourself.

3) Nipple stimulation

Inducing labor at home requires natural ways. The artificial oxytocin or rupturing membranes for labor is not safe at home. Nipple stimulation to induce labor is the easiest way to naturally induce labor. You can use a breast pump or your hands to stimulate the nipples.

How does nipple stimulation induce labor? The same hormone that is responsible for the induction of labor contractions also initiates breastfeeding. When the baby suckles the nipples the milk ejection reflex starts with oxytocin. So the nipple stimulation is a way to induce oxytocin release.

4) Warm water

Since earlier days doulas and midwives use warm water for a home birth. In that case, it is for avoiding infections and feeling cold. But warm water can lead to labor and hot water bath is not safe for pregnant women. When you deliberately want to induce labor soaking in a warm water bath is an option.

5) Balloon catheter to induce labor

Pumping to induce labor using a balloon catheter is another method doctors use for labor induction. A balloon placed inside expands when air pumps in it. The pressure makes the contractions become stronger to expel it out. This is not safe for inducing labor yourself. At hospitals, doctors know the extent to which pumping is safe.

How to induce labor at home?

You will have to use natural remedies to induce labor at home. It is not safe to rupture membranes. But stripping membrane near the vagina can naturally induce labor. Once your midwife is sure of the necessary dilation you can try induction of labor. Massage and warm water are equally effective in enhancing the strength of contractions.

How to naturally induce labor?

Stimulating your nipples is one of the ways of inducing labor naturally. Other methods of natural labor induction are safe for a home birth. The best way to get labor started is nipple stimulation.

1) Walkaround

When you go to a birth center it is not a single shift process. You might stop feeling any contractions after a period. So you will watch TV or walk around inside the birthing center. Do not feel the slightest disappointment because it is completely normal to have intermittent pauses. Exercise and walking around can help reduce the stress that causes stiffening of muscles.

2) Try herbal remedies for inducing labor

Some midwives bring herbal supplements to help you through labor. You can drink such preparations to induce labor. Don’t hurry down a whole lot of volume. Just sipping some of it might do the trick.

You can also have some spicy food during pregnancy. Now that you want labor onset there is no stopping from popping in your favorite food.

What should you eat before being induced? Avoid eating too much because you can vomit due to an unstable gut. Women must avoid eating from the night before labor.

Raspberry tea, black Cohosh, and castor oil consumption is a popular natural way to induce labor. Be careful with the herb you use because there can be side effects.

3) Make love

You had to avoid intercourse for preventing early labor. Now you must have it to induce labor. However, this is not for those women whose pregnant water is leaking. It can lead to infections. Also, women with low lying placenta may not find it pleasant to make love at this stage.

4) Stripping off the membrane

Not like rupturing the membrane but you can open the seal a bit. Your midwife has enough skill to do this at home. All that you need is to remove the membrane covering the cervix. Make sure the water does not break or gush out. If that happens you need to shift to the birth center or hospital. When the water breaks naturally there is only a span of about 24 hours until delivery.

After stripping membranes examination of the vagina becomes risky. Do not touch it and only use a hand mirror or ask someone else to look for dilation.

There can be spotting and cramps after the step. Make sure that the bleeding is not severe. If you bleed heavily then you will need to call the doctor immediately.

How long does it take to have a baby after being induced?

Nipple stimulation labor or natural ways might make you take longer than medications. It is safe to go for natural labor induction when it is necessary. Most women deliver within few hours after medical induction of labor. Some may still take 1-2 days after getting medications.

How long does it take for Pitocin to induce labor?

Pitocin induction is mostly for women who stop contracting after reaching the first stage of labor. After getting induced Pitocin takes few hours to induce active labor.

In most cases, labor starts after 6-12 hours from taking Pitocin. The drug dilates the cervix at a rate of 1cm an hour. Prostaglandins can take a period of 12 hours.

Is it safe to induce labor?

Naturally inducing labor that does not involve interfering with the organs is safe.

Can you induce labor yourself? Yes, you can try the natural methods at home for inducing contractions. But there are many benefits of waiting for natural labor.

Why wait for natural labor?

  1. Natural toning of muscles allows more effective contractions
  2. Better development of the baby
  3. Lesser chance of c section and delivery complications
  4. Reduced risk of infections for both and disease such as jaundice in newborn

What are the risks of inducing labor?

After inducing labor you are at a higher risk of getting an emergency C-section. When you decide to get labor induction then you must know that it can lead to a sudden panic situation.

  1. A longer hospital stay is probable if you need a C-section.
  2. Other than that there is a risk of getting infections.
  3. Premature rupture of membrane or placental abruption can lead to severe bleeding.
  4. Is it more painful to be induced? Women who undergo inducing labor need pain killers more often than those who wait for natural onset. After induction of labor, one is more likely to request an epidural.
  5. Premature induction of labor at 37 weeks is potentially dangerous for the fetus. There can be development lags and cause breathing problems for the baby.

A woman who previously got a C-section must not elect for inducing labor. Reasons not to induce labor include being more than 40 weeks pregnant. It is possible that some babies take longer or some miscalculation exits.