Induction of Labor and Its Effects on Preterm Birth Fact Sheet

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What does induction mean?

Induction is when a woman is admitted to the hospital for the purpose of starting her labor with medications. The process often starts with a gel to soften the cervix (prostaglandin), then medication (pitocin) by IV to start the contractions.

Reasons for induction

Medical reasons for starting labor with medications  

  • Postdates - carrying the baby one to two weeks past the due date.
  • Pregnancy - induced hypertension (PIH).
  • Gestational diabetes with excessive-sized baby or problems with the placenta.
  • Rupture of membranes (ROM): When the membranes have ruptured but the mother feels no contractions, her labor may need to be artificially induced. Babies are at higher risk for developing sepsis (fever, infection) if the membranes are ruptured for longer than 24 hours prior to birth.
  • Any other fetal or maternal reasons that would make birth necessary.

Unsuccessful induction  

Occurs when the mother's body does not respond to the above methods. If the mother is not close to 40 weeks gestation, prostaglandin may not be able to soften the cervix because it is not close enough to the natural time for delivery.

  • May also occur when a woman's body has responded to the above methods, but the labor does not progress normally after it has started.
  • If the membranes are still intact (have not been ruptured or broken), and if this is not an emergency situation, the mother can rest overnight and attempt induction again the next day. However, if induction was due to an emergency situation and failed, a Cesarean section would be necessary.

Medical interventions that could lead to an unnecessary Cesarean delivery  

  • Induction of labor before 39-40 weeks based solely on nonmedical reasons.
  • Routine use of regional anesthesia (spinal, epidural or caudal) for vaginal births.

Sometimes inductions and C-sections are medically necessary. Sometimes inductions are unsuccessful and lead to a C-section. Women should never pressure their physician to help them have their baby sooner than about 40 weeks, as it could cause problems they have not considered. While the last trimester of pregnancy can be challenging and the effects of the normal discomforts of pregnancy tiring, the best place for your baby is inside you. Help prevent late preterm babies by being more aware of the reasons for and the effects of induction.

Healthy Babies Are Worth the Wait® is a multifaceted partnership of the March of Dimes, the Johnson & Johnson Pediatric Institute and the Kentucky Department for Public Health. The primary goal of the initiative is a 15 percent reduction in the rate of "preventable" single preterm births - particularly babies born late preterm (four to six weeks early) - in three targeted intervention sites in Kentucky: King's Daughters Medical Center in Ashland, Trover Health System Regional Medical Center of Hopkins County and the University of Kentucky Albert B. Chandler Hospital in Lexington. Health care teams at each site provide mothers-to-be with an integrated approach of education, counseling and clinical care. 

For more information, call 1-800-333-8874 or visit our website  or the following sites: 

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Page last updated: 8/10/2015 4:46:05 PM