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An expecting mother talking to a medical professional
By Anna Stryker, CNM

3 reasons you might consider an elective induction

After 40 weeks of working to help your baby grow and develop, your body knows what to do to bring your new family member into the world.

But there are times when your body needs a little nudge to get things moving. This is known as induction of labor, or “getting induced.” This is when we use medicine or other methods to get your body to begin the labor process.

We usually induce labor when there’s a concern for a mother’s or baby’s health, such as if you have preeclampsia or complications with gestational diabetes, your water has broken but contractions haven’t started, or your baby is struggling for any number of reasons.

While we generally like to let labor happen naturally unless it threatens your or your baby’s safety, there are a few situations in which we might consider an elective induction—choosing to get induced without an emergency reason.

Before we talk about three potential reasons to consider an elective induction, it’s important to first understand the potential risks and criteria we require to do one.

Who Is Eligible for Elective Induction

Before we consider inducing you, we will want to confirm a few things to reduce the risk of health problems for you and your baby. These may include:

  • You are at least 38 weeks along in your pregnancy.
  • You are having only one baby.
  • You have not had a previous C-section or other major surgery on your uterus.
  • Your cervix is soft and ready to open.
  • Your placenta is not blocking your cervix.
  • Your baby is lying in the correct position (head down), and not sideways or breech (with their bottom coming first).

While inducing labor can be the safest choice in some circumstances, there also are potential risks. These can include:

  • Needing a C-section. About 25% of women who are induced need a C-section because labor is not progressing despite the induction.
  • Longer labor. Labors that are induced are often longer than those that start naturally.
  • A low fetal heart rate. The medications we use to induce labor can cause the uterus to contract too quickly or strongly, which can lead to dangerous changes in your baby’s heart rate.
  • Inducing labor by rupturing the membranes can increase the risk of infection for you and your baby.

Reasons You Might Consider Getting Induced

1. You’re approaching or past your due date

If your due date has come and gone without labor starting, it’s natural to feel antsy about getting things rolling. In addition, if you go beyond two weeks late, there’s an increased risk of complications such as diminishing amniotic fluid, having a baby that is much larger than average, needing a C-section, and stillbirth. Because of this, your health care provider may bring up the possibility of an elective induction.

New research also suggests that induction at 39 weeks for first-time mothers may lower their chance of having a C-section and developing preeclampsia. This doesn’t mean you should induce labor at 39 weeks, but it is something to speak to your Ob/Gyn or midwife about if you’re interested.

2. You have a history of giving birth quickly

Labor and delivery usually take 12 to 18 hours for a first pregnancy. The second time around, it tends to goes much faster—and continues to shorten with each subsequent labor.

If you have given birth quickly in the past, your health care provider may bring up an elective induction to avoid the possibility of not getting to the hospital in time and having the baby at home or in the car without the assistance of medical personnel.

3. You live far away from the hospital

Much like we don’t want you to give birth at home or in your car because things are moving quickly, we also don’t want you to have an unattended birth because it takes too long to get to the hospital or birth clinic. 

We always want you to have the chance to settle in before the real work of giving birth begins. If you live far away, an elective induction may reduce the chance of a long, uncomfortable, and anxious trip to get to us.

Questions to Ask About Elective Induction

If you’re interested in an elective induction, there are a few questions you should ask your doctor or midwife:

  • Do you do elective inductions? Some facilities do not have the staff and resources to do this procedure.
  • Are there ways to encourage my body to go into labor on its own? There are plenty of myths about how to make labor begin naturally. Talk to your health care provider before trying any natural induction methods.
  • What methods do you use to induce labor? These might include medication, rupturing the amniotic sac, or using synthetic hormones to cause the cervix to soften.
  • Will my insurance cover an elective induction?

The decision to induce labor is a personal one and a serious one that you and your health care provider can make together. Above all, whether naturally or induced, we want to welcome your baby into the world with both of you as healthy as possible.

To find out whether you or a loved one might benefit from Ob/Gyn care
Categories: Women's Health