Induction by request

Some women may prefer to have an induction, even without medical need. Inducing labor may appeal to both the woman and the health care provider because it helps them plan their schedules. The March of Dimes recommends that labor be induced only when the health of the woman or baby is at risk. In 2003, labor was induced in 1 out of 5 deliveries in the United States. The rate has more than doubled since 1990. Some health care providers believe that many inductions are medically unnecessary.

The risk of late preterm birth
Inductions may contribute to the growing number of babies who are born "late preterm," between 34 and 36 weeks gestation. While babies born at this time are usually considered healthy, they are more likely to have medical problems than babies born a few weeks later at full term (37-42 weeks).

A baby's lungs and brain mature late in pregnancy. Compared to a full-term baby, an infant born between 34 and 36 weeks gestation is more likely to have problems with:

  • Breathing
  • Feeding
  • Maintaining his or her temperature
  • Jaundice

It can be hard to pinpoint the date your baby was conceived. Being off by just a week or two can result in premature birth. This may make a difference in your baby's health. Keep this in mind when scheduling an induction.

Learn more about inducing labor. If you decide to ask your provider for an induction, be sure to ask these two questions:

  • How will you induce my labor?
  • Will inducing labor increase the chance that I'll need a c-section?

July 2009

Most common questions

What is an epidural?

An epidural is the most popular and effective kind of pain relief for labor. You get a needle with a small tube attached placed in your lower back. Medicine goes through the tube while you're in labor. It numbs your lower body so you can't feel the pain from your contractions. The medicine doesn't make you go to sleep, so you can be wide awake when your baby is born!

What is fetal-scalp blood sampling?

Fetal-scalp blood sampling is a quick test your health care provider can use to check if your baby is getting enough oxygen during labor.

During labor, your cervix dilates (opens) to let your baby out. Your cervix is the opening to the uterus that sits at the top of the vagina. In order to have fetal-scalp blood sampling, your cervix must be dilated enough that your provider can reach your baby’s head.

The test may remind you of a pelvic exam. It takes about 5 minutes. You lie on your back with your feet in stirrups. Your provider places a plastic cone in the vagina that fits up against the baby’s head. Your provider pricks your baby’s scalp and takes a small amount of blood. The blood is tested, and results are ready in a few minutes.

You may feel some pressure during the test, but it shouldn’t hurt. Your baby may have some bruising or bleeding at the spot where he’s pricked.

If you have an infection, like HIV or hepatitis C, your provider may not recommend fetal blood sampling. This is because you can pass these infections to your baby through the spot where he’s pricked.

What is oxytocin?

Oxytocin is a hormone your body makes to help start labor contractions. Contractions are when the muscles of your uterus get tight and then relax. They help push your baby out of your uterus (womb).

Your body also makes oxytocin during breastfeeding. Oxytocin helps your uterus shrink back to its original size after giving birth.

If labor is slow to start or your contractions stall, your health care provider may give you a medicine called . Pitocin acts like oxytocin and can help start contractions or make them stronger.

What is Pitocin?

Pitocin is a medicine that acts like , a hormone your body makes to help start labor contractions. Contractions are when the muscles of your uterus get tight and then relax. They help push your baby out of your uterus (womb). Health care providers often use Pitocin to:

  • Help induce labor
  • Help labor move along if your contractions slow down, or if they aren’t strong enough

You may start having labor contractions shortly after you get Pitocin. It can make your contractions very strong and lower your baby's heart rate. Your provider carefully monitors your baby's heart rate for changes and adjusts the amount of Pitocin you get, if needed.

©2013 March of Dimes Foundation. The March of Dimes is a non-profit organization recognized as tax-exempt under Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(3).