Inducing labour

When is labour induced?

Labour will be induced if there is a medical reason to do so, e.g., a woman’s water has broken (rupture of the amniotic membrane) but she is not having contractions, or the pregnancy has gone beyond 41 weeks.

In other rare situations the health of the mother or baby may justify inducing labour. Talk to your health professional about the reasons for induction and its potential consequences.

Methods used to induce labour

There are several different ways to induce labour, and the method chosen will depend on many factors, like how ripe the cervix is and whether or not it is a first delivery.

First the ripeness of the cervix is evaluated. If the cervix is still closed (or thick), the woman may be given hormones vaginally (via tampon, tablet, or gel) or orally (via a pill). This will soften the cervix and it will begin to thin (efface). The cervix will then open (dilate) a few centimetres.

Sometimes a catheter with a small balloon attached is inserted into the cervix. The balloon can then be inflated inside the cervix to open it. These methods may sometimes cause discomfort or pain but they help prepare the cervix for the next stage of the induction process.

Contractions may be induced using medication administered intravenously, orally, or through the vagina. Once the medication starts to take effect, it must usually be administered until the baby is born.

It is also possible to break water (rupture the amniotic membrane) artifically. This procedure is generally no more painful than a cervical examination and does not harm the baby.

Labour: Process by which the baby passes from the uterus to the outside world, primarily through contractions of the uterus.