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To Induce or Not to Induce?

Dianna Graveman |20, October 2011


Toward the end of a pregnancy, most mothers are weary of the wait. If a scheduled C-section is not planned, the uncertainty of your baby's birth date can be unnerving. What if you're at work when your water breaks - or in the middle of a shopping trip, at church, or in front of a classroom? How can you be sure your doctor or midwife will be in town and available to deliver your baby when the big moment arrives?

Sometimes expectant parents just don't want to take a chance their child will celebrate his birthday each year on Christmas or share her birthday with an older sibling. As the estimated due date arrives and then passes, many parents worry about their child's birth weight and the mother's ability to deliver safely if the pregnancy continues. Occasionally, a mother who has previously had very short labors or who lives a long distance from a health care facility might worry about making it to the hospital on time with an unscheduled birth. What if the weather gets bad or she goes into labor during rush hour?

With so many things to worry about, the temptation to ask your medical provider about scheduling your child's birth date in advance can be overwhelming. But should you?

If you are significantly past your due date, your doctor or midwife may suggest induction for health reasons. According to, some of those reasons include:

  • You have an infection in your uterus
  • Your placenta is deteriorating or is peeling away from the inner wall of the uterus
  • You have high blood pressure, diabetes, or some other medical condition that puts you or your baby at risk
  • Your baby has stopped growing as fast as he should
  • There should be more amniotic fluid around the baby
  • A significantly overdue baby has a higher chance of inhaling meconium (fecal waste) during birth, which could cause lung problems

Labor is generally induced one of two ways: through the administering of medicines like oxytocin or prostaglandin, or through the artificial rupturing of membranes. Artificial membrane rupture means your health care provider will use a medical instrument to rupture your amniotic sack if your water does not break on its own. Although these methods are generally considered safe, there are a few risks or disadvantages associated with both, according to The American Pregnancy Association. With oxytocin, labor can progress very quickly and cause contractions to become difficult to manage. With artificial rupture of the membrane, the baby might move to a breech position if the procedure is performed before his head is engaged. It is also possible for the umbilical cord to become prolapsed or slip out before the baby, and infection is a concern if birth doesn't occur soon enough after the membrane is broken.

According to, it might be best to wait until about two weeks after your due date before considering an induction, as long as your medical provider agrees your health and the health of your baby are not in danger. Unnecessary induction is known to pose a higher risk of additional interventions like C-sections.

If your medical provider suggests an induction, consider asking specific questions about why you need the procedure and how it will help you or your baby. Ask what other options are available and what will likely happen if the procedure is not done - or how long you can safely wait before making a decision about induction.

Any medical intervention during pregnancy should be given serious consideration, and induction is no exception. Work with your healthcare provider to become fully informed about all of your options so you can help make the best decisions for you and your baby.

Dianna Graveman is a St. Louis writer, editor, educator, and mother of three. Her work has appeared in many print and online publications. Visit her website at or her blog at

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