Induction of Labour

Updated: Aug 10

This information is to help you and your family make a choice about induction of labour and to answer some of the questions you may have.

What is induction of labour?

In most pregnancies, labour starts naturally between 37 and 42 weeks, leading to the birth of the baby. When labour starts, a number of changes take place in the body:

• The cervix (neck of the womb) softens and shortens

• The fluid-filled membrane sac surrounding your baby tears ("your waters break")

• The cervix dilates (opens)

• The womb contracts to push your baby out.

Labour is said to be "induced" when doctors and midwives encourage the labour process to start artificially.

When is induction of labour recommended?

Approximately one fifth of women have an induction of labour. The most common reasons are:

• The woman has specific health concerns (such as diabetes or high blood pressure)

• The baby is not well or is distressed

• The pregnancy has gone longer than 41 weeks (prolonged pregnancy)

• The waters have already broken but the contractions of labour have not started naturally.

An induction is recommended when it is considered that your health and/or your baby's health will benefit.

Making your choice

Everyone has the right to be fully informed and to share in decision-making about health care. Before you make a decision about induction, your doctor or midwife will explain:

• Why an induction has been recommended for you, and the potential benefits

• The potential risks with continuing your pregnancy until labour starts naturally

• Potential risks with having an induction of labour

• The procedures and care that is involved during an induction of labour.

Some women will choose "to wait and see" whether natural labour will start. However it is important that you are aware of the risks of both options, so that you can decide what is best for you. The information outlined below may also help to inform your decision.

How is labour induced?

Before starting the induction, your doctor or midwife will assess your cervix. This examination takes only a few minutes but some women may experience some discomfort. Based on this assessment, your doctor or midwife will recommend the most suitable method of induction as follows: