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Get ready for labor

  • Use a birth plan to make choices about childbirth.
  • Take a childbirth education class.
  • If you’re healthy, wait for labor to begin on its own.
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Scheduling labor induction

Inducing labor (also called labor induction) is when your health care provider gives you medicine or breaks your water (amniotic sac) to make your labor begin.

Your provider may need to induce your labor because of medical conditions that affect your pregnancy. But some inductions are being scheduled early for non-medical reasons. Experts are learning that this
can cause problems for you and your baby.

If you’re planning to induce labor, talk to your provider about waiting until at least 39 weeks of pregnancy. This gives your baby the time she needs to grow and develop before she’s born.

Why can scheduling an induction for non-medical reasons be a problem?

Here’s why:

Your due date may not be exactly right. Sometimes it’s hard to know just when you got pregnant. If you schedule an induction and your due date is off by a week or 2, your baby may be born too early. This may be one reason why there are many late preterm births (at 34 to 36 weeks) in this country. While babies born late preterm may seem healthy, they are more likely to have medical problems than babies born a few weeks later.

Inducing labor may cause problems for you and your baby. These can include:

  • Stronger and more frequent contractions. This happens for many women. Contractions are when the muscles of your uterus get tight and then relax. Contractions help push the baby out of your uterus. Too many contractions may cause your baby to get less oxygen and lower his heart rate. They also can cause problems with the umbilical cord. The umbilical cord connects the baby to the placenta. It carries food and oxygen from the placenta to the baby. 
  • Infections
  • Uterine rupture. This is when the uterus tears during labor. This condition is rare.

Inducing labor may not work. If your labor is induced, the medicine your provider gives you may not start your labor. When this happens, you may need a c-section. Inducing labor doubles your chances for needing a c-section.

What questions can you ask your provider about inducing labor?

If your provider wants to induce your labor, ask these questions:

  • Why do you need to induce my labor?
  • Is there a problem with my health or the health of my baby that may make me need to induce labor before 39 weeks?
  • How will you induce my labor?
  • What problems can inducing labor cause for me and my baby?
  • Will inducing labor increase my chances for needing a c-section?

Last reviewed July 2013

Signs of preterm labor

  • Contractions every 10 minutes or more often
  • Change in vaginal discharge
  • Pelvic pressure
  • Low, dull backache
  • Cramps that feel like your period
  • Abdominal cramps with or without diarrhea

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need a birth plan?

You don't have to have a birth plan. But having one is a great idea! A birth plan is a set of instructions you make about your baby's birth. It tells your provider how you feel about things like who you want with you during labor, what you want to do during labor, if you want drugs to help with labor pain, and if there are special religious or cultural practices you want to have happen once your baby is born. Fill out a birth plan with your partner. Then share it with your provider and with the nurses at the hospital or birthing center where you plan to have your baby. Share it with your family and other support people, too. It's best for everyone to know ahead of time how you want labor and birth to be.

What are Braxton-Hicks contractions?

You may feel Braxton-Hicks contractions starting early in your third trimester. They're usually painless but can be uncomfortable. They are different from true labor contractions. Braxton-Hicks don't come in a regular pattern, and they don't get closer over time. They may stop when you walk, change positions or rest. They may happen more often in the evening, especially if you're dehydrated. They may be weak and stay that way, or there may be a few strong ones followed by weak ones. You usually feel them in the lower abdomen and groin. True labor contractions come in regular intervals, get closer together and steadily stronger, and last 30 to 90 seconds. They don't go away, no matter what you do. The pain usually starts in the back and wraps around to the front. If you're having any kind of contractions and think you might be in labor, call your provider.

Have questions?

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