When a woman reaches the end of her pregnancy, she’s usually willing to try just about anything to get her baby out.
Often it’s just a matter of patience, but certain situations warrant speeding things up a little. Many wives’ tales—such as spicy food or a bumpy car ride—are said to help, but nothing has been proven to work.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), roughly 23% of all pregnancies are medically induced. The main reasons why labor is induced are: being two weeks or more overdue, water breaking without labor starting, or having a complication that risks the safety of you and/or the baby.
When doctors step in, how do they induce labor? Here are the most common ways:
1. Stripping the membranes
This technique involves an OB separating the amniotic sac from the uterine wall by breaking (or stripping) the membranes that hold the two together. While it may be effective, the downside is that it can be an uncomfortable procedure and may still take a few days for labor to start.
2. Rupturing the membranes (“breaking” your water)
If you’ve already started dilating and your cervix is soft, your doctor may opt to rupture the bag of water surrounding your baby in order to trigger labor.
3. Hormone treatment
If your cervix hasn’t started dilating, your doctor may try giving you hormone pills or suppositories called prostaglandins. These hormones help to soften and open your cervix, causing contractions to kick in.
Another common induction technique is through the use of a drug called Pitocin, which is given through an IV. Pitocin sends signals to the uterus to begin contracting, acting as a synthetic form of oxytocin (the natural hormone that signals your body to begin labor).
Before you decide whether or not to induce, always talk to your experienced obstetrician about your options and risk factors. Our primary goal is to have a safe delivery and a healthy mom and baby!