Preparing for the Best Labor Induction

Woman in labor

 Ryo Ohwada/Getty Images

The induction of labor is the starting labor before it begins on its own. It is a group of procedures that appears to be on the rise, both for medical and non-medical reasons. No matter what the reason for your induction of labor, you’re probably hoping for the best-case scenario. These five tips will help you have the best induction of labor possible.

Tips to Prepare for Labor Induction

Induction of labor can be a positive experience. Keeping your eyes open and your mind realistic are the keys to being helping you achieve that balance. These tips will also help you to prepare for a successful induction.

Know Your Cervix

Before you agree to try to do an induction of labor, you’ll need to know a bit about your cervix. Your doctor or midwife will do a vaginal exam and calculate a Bishop Score that estimates how likely an induction is to bring on labor. It’s easier to get a cervix to open and labor to begin when the cervix is ready or ripe for birth.

This includes:

  • Consistency (how firm or soft)
  • Dilation (how open your cervix is)
  • Effacement (how long it is)
  • Position (which way is it angled)
  • Station (how low is baby)

Each of the points above is scored as a zero, one or two. The higher the number, the more likely your cervix will open easily and that labor will begin. If this number is low, you may need to have treatments for cervical ripening before an outright induction of labor is considered. This helps the cervix be more favorable to other methods of induction.

Ask About Options

There is more than one way to do an induction of labor. You may have many options on the type of induction that is used. Not every option is right for every woman. What goes into this decision will be:

  • Conditions inside the uterus (amniotic fluid volume, baby’s position, etc.)
  • Maternal conditions (pre-existing complications, vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC) status, number of babies previously born, etc.)
  • Maternal preference
  • Practitioner preference
  • The reason for induction

Since some options, like breaking the bag of water (amniotomy), can start a clock that says you must have your baby by a certain time. That may lead to more interventions and these sort of options may be lower on your list of ways to start labor. Talk about your birth preferences with your practitioner to help figure out the best way to achieve those preferences.

Know Your Due Date

Statistically speaking, the closer you are to your due date, the easier it is to get labor going. This is because your body and your baby are closer to being ready for spontaneous labor. Sometimes a woman will show up for induction of labor and already be in the early stages of labor. In this case, the procedures are actually an augmentation of labor (speeding it up) that has already begun.

When your due date is not well known or prior to 39 weeks, the risks are very high for your baby and should not be considered without significant medical reasons for induction.

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has called for an end to elective induction of labor prior to week 39 to protect your baby from being born too soon.

Keep Your Balance

While you may be excited to finally meet your baby, you may also be concerned about induction of labor. Discuss your concerns with your practitioner before going in for an induction. Talk about possible scenarios options for you and your baby. Induction is not an exact science. This means that not every method will work the same way, nor will it necessarily be a fast process.

At the hospital, you may need to adopt a go-with-the-flow attitude, but that doesn’t mean that you have to give everything up that you had wanted from the get-go. You still have options and choices.

For example, if not using pain relief was important to you, induction does not mean that you have to accept pain relief. Many women are able to keep parts of their birth plans intact, despite induction of labor, with the proper planning, practitioner support, and labor support from both family members and doulas.

Questions to Ask Before an Induction

  • How long would we try this before trying something else?
  • What are the likely risks and benefits of each intervention?
  • What happens if this method doesn't work? What's the next step?
  • Will this method require that you have constant fetal monitoring or only brief periods?
  • Will you be able to still move around?

Find Support

Don’t forget to have help. Many women find induced labors to be very different than spontaneous labor. The mental and emotional factor is a large part of this toll. Support from your family and doula, as well as the medical staff will be vital to how you think and feel about your birth.

While some inductions of labor happen very quickly, others take much longer. It may mean that you start induction on one day and do not have your baby for a day or two depending on the condition of your cervix, the methods tried, and how you and your baby handle labor. In fact, sometimes, you're bored at the beginning of induction. Having a team of supporters will help make this time bearable.

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  2. De vaan MD, Ten eikelder ML, Jozwiak M, et al. Mechanical methods for induction of labour. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2019; doi:10.1002/14651858.CD001233.pub3