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What is labor induction?

Labor induction includes several methods to start labor contractions. Labor induction is performed when continuing a pregnancy threatens the health of the mother or baby. Labor induction may be necessary when a pregnancy has lasted too long; the baby has a growth problem; or the mother has diabetes, Rh disease, preeclampsia, or separation of the placenta from the uterus. 

There are several methods of labor induction that your doctor or midwife may use alone or in combination with one another. They include breaking your water, stripping your membranes, applying mechanical devices that soften and prepare your cervix for birth, and giving you intravenous medication that signals your uterus to begin contractions. 

Labor induction is a common procedure, but it does have risks and potential complications. Risks include injury to the baby, infection, and increase risk of cesarean section. Discuss all of your options to induce labor with your healthcare provider to understand which options are right for you.  

Medical Reviewers: Daphne E. Hemmings, MD, MPH Last Review Date: Oct 8, 2012

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Medical References

  1. Inducing Labor. American Pregnancy Association. http://www.americanpregnancy.org/labornbirth/inducinglabor.html.
  2. Inducing labor. March of Dimes. http://www.marchofdimes.com/pregnancy/vaginalbirth_inducing.html.
  3. Induction of Labor. ACOG Practice Bulletin. NUMBER 107, AUGUST 2009. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. http://www.ohsu.edu/som/obgyn/programs/ACOG%20Practice%20Bulletein%20107%202009.pdf.
  4. Labor Induction. American Academy of Family Physicians. http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/pregnancy-newborns/labor-childbirth/labor-induction.html.
  5. Labor Induction. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. http://www.acog.org/~/media/For%20Patients/faq154.pdf?dmc=1&ts=20120807T1419329388.
  6. Methods for Cervical Ripening and Induction of Labor. Am Fam Physician. 2003 May 15;67(10):2123-2128. http://www.aafp.org/afp/2003/0515/p2123.html.
  7. Stripping Membranes. Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health. http://www.midwife.org/ACNM/files/ccLibraryFiles/Filename/000000000669/Stripping%20Membranes.pdf.

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