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Preventive Care
Women's Health

Inducing Labour: All You Need to Know

05 June 2024 · 7 mins read


Induction of labour involves initiating contractions artificially before the spontaneous onset of natural labour. Learn why it may be needed and the procedures involved.

Inducing labour is a medical intervention that is occasionally necessary to ensure the health and well-being of both the mother and the baby during childbirth.

In this guide, we will explore the ins and outs of inducing labour, covering the reasons, pain management, and the safety concerns associated with the procedure.

What Is Induction of Labour?

Induction of labour also means “inducing labour”. This medical procedure involves initiating contractions artificially before the spontaneous onset of labour. This process is typically recommended when waiting for labour to start naturally, as a delayed birth process could pose risks to the well-being of the mother or the baby.

What Are the Reasons to Induce Labour?

There are several reasons why healthcare professionals may decide to induce labour.

  1. You are overdue.

    One common reason for labour induction is when a pregnancy exceeds the expected due date. Typically, a full-term pregnancy is considered to be around 40 weeks. 

    If you have reached 41 weeks or more without signs of labour, your healthcare provider may recommend induction if spontaneous labour does not commence. This is because extended gestations can increase the risk of stillbirth or complications for the baby.

  2. Your waters broke, but contractions did not start naturally.

    If your amniotic membranes rupture before the onset of labour, there is an elevated risk of infection for you and your baby.

    Your midwife or doctor should engage in a thorough discussion of your available options. Additionally, they should provide information about the neonatal special care services.

    If your baby is born before reaching 37 weeks of gestation, they may be susceptible to complications associated with premature birth.

    For cases where the amniotic sac ruptures before the 34th week, induction will only be recommended if other pertinent factors indicate it as the most suitable course of action for you and your baby.

  3. You or your baby have a health issue.

    There could be conditions that cause concerns about the mother or baby’s health, or reduced amount of fluid surrounding baby such as preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, placental problems, or foetal growth restriction. In such scenarios, the doctor may recommend inducing labour to prevent further complications in that case.

How Do Doctors Induce Labour?

There are several labour-inducing methods that healthcare professionals use, depending on the individual circumstances. Here are some common methods:

  1. Membrane sweep

    A membrane sweep, a cervical sweep or stretch and sweep, is a standard procedure in which a healthcare provider uses their finger to separate the amniotic sac from the cervix. 

    This can stimulate the release of natural prostaglandins, which may kick-start labour within a few days. If labour fails to commence following a membrane sweep, you will be presented with other options for labour induction.

  2. Amniotomy

    Amniotomy is the medical term for breaking the amniotic sac, often called “breaking the water.” A healthcare provider typically does this in a controlled and sterile environment using a specialised tool as an active phase-induced labour. It accelerates uterine contractions, consequently reducing the duration of labour.

  3. Vaginal prostaglandins

    Prostaglandins are hormones that play a role in the onset of labour, specifically the third trimester. Synthetic prostaglandin medications can be administered vaginally to soften and thin the cervix, making it more receptive to contractions, also known as ripening the cervix.

  4. Stimulating contractions with oxytocin

    Oxytocin is an inducing labour medication hormone that naturally induces uterine contractions during labour. Synthetic oxytocin, administered through an IV, can strengthen and regulate contractions when labour is slow to progress. It helps to induce labour quickly and enable progress for vaginal delivery.

  5. Labour balloon

    Inducing using a labour balloon or a balloon catheter is another option doctors may use instead of pharmacological methods as it is more accessible and may carry lower risks, such as uterine hyperstimulation.

Regardless of the chosen method, seeking guidance from your healthcare provider for personalised recommendations tailored to your specific situation is advisable.

What Are the Risks Associated with Labour Induction?

While inducing labour is generally safe, there are some risks associated with induced labour, including:

Your healthcare provider will carefully assess your situation and recommend induction only if the benefits outweigh the potential risks.

How to Induce Labour Naturally?

Many expectant mothers are curious about how to induce labour naturally, especially at 38 weeks. 

While these methods are generally considered safe and low-risk ways to induce labour, it is crucial to consult your healthcare provider before trying them, especially if you have any underlying health conditions or concerns. 

Here are some natural ways to encourage labour:

  1. Gym ball exercises

    Gentle exercises on a gym ball, also known as the pregnancy ball, can induce labour. These exercises help position the baby for labour and contribute to alleviating the discomforts of labour pain, enhancing the well-being of both the mother and the newborn for vaginal delivery.

  2. Expressing colostrum

    Some women try expressing colostrum (early breast milk) to induce labour to stimulate contractions. However, this should only be done under the guidance of a healthcare professional.

  3. Nipple stimulation

    Gentle nipple stimulation can encourage the release of oxytocin, a hormone that triggers contractions. However, it should be done cautiously to avoid overstimulation.

  4. Swimming

    While some women believe that swimming in warm water can relax the body and potentially encourage labour, exercise like swimming is more beneficial to strengthen the body in coping with labour itself. It is essential to stay hydrated and be cautious when swimming during pregnancy.

What Are the Frequently Asked Questions about Labour Induction?

Is it better to be induced or wait?

The decision to induce labour or wait depends on your specific circumstances and your healthcare provider’s recommendations. They will consider factors like the health of the mother and baby, gestational age, and other medical conditions when making this decision.

Is inducing labour safe for babies?

The safety of inducing labour largely depends on the specific circumstances and the methods used. 

However, for many first-time mothers who are open to the idea of labour induction, it can make the childbirth experience feel less unpredictable and more controlled when welcoming your baby.

It is essential to discuss any concerns with your healthcare provider, as they will weigh the potential risks against the benefits for both you and your baby.

Is induced labour very painful?

The pain experienced during induced labour is usually more intense than spontaneous labour. However, the intensity and duration of contractions can vary from person to person. 

Pain management options, including epidurals, intravenous medications, and natural pain relief techniques, are available to help alleviate discomfort during labour.

How long does it take to give birth after being induced?

The time it takes to give birth after induction can vary widely. It depends on factors such as the method used, the readiness of the cervix, and the individual’s response to the induction process. Some people may give birth within hours of induction, while others may take a day or more.

Is induction better than a C-section?

Induction and C-section are two different approaches to childbirth. Induction aims to stimulate contractions, ultimately aiming for vaginal delivery, whereas C-section is a surgical procedure used for childbirth. The choice between the two depends on individual circumstances and should be discussed thoroughly with your healthcare provider. 

How common is induced labour?

The induction of labour (IOL) is one of the most commonly conducted obstetric interventions globally. The rate of induced labour is steadily increasing, and in industrialised countries, approximately one out of 4 pregnant women has their labour induced.

Latest research suggests that induction labour at 9 weeks in a month ≥ 40 years old may reduce risk of stillbirth. Nonetheless, it is crucial to consult with your physician to ascertain the most suitable approach for your pregnancy and delivery preference.

Schedule an Appointment at Pantai Hospitals

Inducing labour is a medical intervention that can be necessary in certain situations to ensure the mother’s and baby’s health and safety. 

If you have any questions or concerns about labour induction, discuss them with a healthcare provider who can provide personalised guidance based on your unique circumstances. Your health and the well-being of your baby are their top priorities.

At Pantai Hospitals, we offer comprehensive medical advice and delivery packages. Contact us to schedule an appointment with our team of O&G specialists today or learn more about our Obstetrics and Gynaecology Services at your nearest Pantai Hospital.

Pantai Hospitals have earned accreditation from the Malaysian Society for Quality in Health (MSQH) for their dedication to patient safety and service quality.

This article has been medically reviewed by Obstetrics & Gynaecology (O&G) specialist, Dr Lim Kian Hwa.

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