What is the induction of labour?

Induction of labour is the use of medications to artificially initiate the labour process. When used for the right reasons, induction can have benefits for both the mother and baby. It should only be used when the risks of continuing the pregnancy are greater than the risks associated with delivery.

Why would I need an induction of labour?

Some examples of conditions that induction is used include:

Induction should never be used for the convenience of the mother or the health care provider.

What are the risks associated with induction?

Induction does not always work, so there is a risk that labour will not start. In cases where induction is done earlier than normal due to complications of the mother or baby, or the cervix is not ready for labour, induction can be more difficult. In this case, other medication can be given before oxytocin to try and make the cervix more ready (‘ripen’ the cervix).

Other risks of induction, using various methods, include:

  • Caesarean section (in some, but not all cases)
  • Bacterial infection of the uterus
  • Umbilical cord prolapse
  • Birth of a preterm baby when dating was inaccurate
  • Uterine rupture

What will happen if I am induced?

There are different methods of induction:

  • Rupture of the amniotic sac
  • Products that are placed on the cervix to help it soften and thin (e.g., prostaglandin gel, tablet, or insert)
  • Medications that cause contractions (e.g., intravenous oxytocin or oral prostaglandin)
  • Insertion of a balloon catheter into the cervix to help it open

Depending on how far along you are, the reasons for induction, and how dilated your cervix is, you and your health care provider will decide together how and when to approach induction.