Inducing Labor: 8 Reasons It Should Be a Last Resort

hospital bed for pregnant womanPlenty of expectant moms get to the point in their pregnancy where they joke about wanting to "evict" their little tenant because they're so ready to give birth. What's no joking matter, however, is how frequently labor is induced -- often for non-medical reasons, such as wanting to minimize end-of-pregnancy discomfort, the health care provider suspects the baby is large, or because the timing works better for the health care provider. As a result, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that at least 23 percent of pregnant women are undergoing induction.

Midwife Kristin Mallon, CNM, explains that she supports induction when the cervix is "favorable" (as in it's softened and become more distensible ahead of dilation, labor, and delivery), but "there are several reasons to avoid an induction with an unfavorable cervix." At the same time, many women would prefer to let labor start on its own -- even if their cervix is favorable. Here, eight reasons why ...

  1. It increases the risk of medical interventions: Most commonly, labors are induced with intravenous Pitocin (the synthetic form of the hormone oxytocin, which triggers contractions). Use of the drug requires that a woman stay in the hospital for the duration of her labor, which raises her odds of having to face further medical interventions.
  2. You'll need more pain medication: Because being induced by Pitocin triggers sudden, intense contractions, it means a "higher likelihood of using pain medications, such as epidural," says Mallon.
  3. Electronic Fetal Monitoring (EFM) may be necessary: Another intervention linked to induction is EFM, which may be necessary, because the powerful contractions brought on by Pitocin can cause fetal distress or even uterine rupture.
  4. It increases your C-section risk: EFM has been known to set off false alarms, which often lead to unnecessary C-sections. Or if induction doesn't work, there's more pressure on doctors to deliver surgically. Research has shown for several years that voluntary inductions lead to more C-sections. A study of 7,800 first-time mothers found that those who had their labor induced were twice as likely to ultimately need C-sections, which of course come with their own risks, such as a longer recovery time, an increased chance of blood clots, and possible infection at the surgery site.
  5. You might experience uncomfortable, worrisome side effects: Nausea and vomiting are frequently associated with use of oxytocin, and rarely, heart rhythm problems and allergic reactions may occur.
  6. There's a higher risk of premature birth: As worrying as it may sound, inducing labor comes with a higher risk of delivering a baby before its fully developed. New studies show babies who are even slightly premature have more problems at birth and beyond.
  7. There is a higher risk of the baby being admitted to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit: Last year, researchers at Beth Israel Medical Center in NYC found that induction and augmentation of labor with oxytocin was an independent risk factor for unexpected admission to the NICU lasting more than 24 hours for full-term infants. That's because the artificial contractions that come with Pitocin may affect an infant's ability to breathe, and in turn, they may need to be admitted to the NICU to be put on a respirator.
  8. You may experience difficulty breastfeeding: Because Pitocin has an anti-diuretic effect and causes you to retain fluid, it may lead to severe engorgement or a delay in milk production, making it more difficult to breastfeed.

Has your doctor suggested you be induced? If so, how did you respond?


Image via daquellamanera/Flickr

labor & delivery


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morga... morgani6904

I was induced twice for medical reasons. First being that baby wasn't gaining weight properly and second time was a combination of problems. Second induction was at 39 weeks and due to a two vessel cord and my heart medication. And even with the pitocin, I had no pain meds at all. It was uncomfortable but not unbearable.


I was induced at 42 weeks. I basically put it off as long as I could. It kinda sucked but it is what it is.

JessL... JessLogansMommy

I hated the pitocin.  My water broke before contractions started and I couldn't get them started on my own.  I only had about a 30 second break between contractions on the lowest possible dose of pitocin.  Fortunately once they got going I was able to stop it and was contracting on my own, i just needed a push.  I did have to have fetal monitoring with my second but that had more to do with the fact that the cord was around his neck twice than the pitocin. 

Anzy Anzy

i was induced because i was wayyy over due date and didn't have any signs of going into labor by myself. I was okay with it because doc told me if she stays in much longer it gets dangerous for my baby.

Turtl... Turtlekot

I was induced with my first by my choice. I had an OB that was part of a practice which meant there was a chance of another doctor being at delivery. I was fine with all but one. I told him that if she showed up I was going to leave and have my baby at home. That delivery sucked because they used Pitocin. I was exhausted and threw up after delivery...which took almost 24 hrs from the time they started with the Pitocin.

I was induced with second by choice also. This time they used a balloon technique, which uses gravity to open the cervix. I got to go home and sleep. If it feel out prior to a certain time, I would go to the hospital...if not see you at xyz time. Labor was easy. I was up and walking around right away. We made this choice because my son was do to be born in dec 2001. My sister had signed up for the air force right before sept 11th. She was being sent to tech. school and I didn't want to chance her not seeing her nephew.

The third and last was natural.

nonmember avatar Anowscara

I was induced with my first because he was large, and that was my best chance to deliver naturally. Both my doctor and I wanted a natural delivery if possible. Unfortunately he was already too big and I needed a c-section because he got stuck. I don't see why suspecting a large baby with the best estimated weight isn't a valid reason for induction; the whole idea there is to try and deliver naturally!

nonmember avatar kassie

I was induced with my one and only because the Dr's thought I was going to have a 14 pound baby. Nope she was only 6 lbs 4 oz!! I Also had to have the fetal monitor because she was distressed towards the end. I was in labor for 36 hours with constant horrible contractions (absolutely no break in between! Just 1 long contraction for 36 hours! Dang right I broke down and got an epidural after 24 hours) she was definitely earlier than the estimated due date, I was supposedly 39 weeks, but I think I was closer to 37. She was tiny and still covered in the peach fuzz. It also took almost 3 weeks for my milk to actually come in and I had awful night sweats for a good 3 months after because I had to much fluid retention and water weight. If I ever have another, I will fight tooth and nail to keep from being induced. It was an awful experience.

nonmember avatar Kristi

My reason for pitocin was that I was overdue. It started my contractions but I failed to progress after 7cm and the baby was stuck so 25 hours after starting I had a c-section. I do not blame pitocin for that as my dr said it would have happened regardless.

nonmember avatar Courtney

I had to be induced after my water broke and 3 days later contractions hadn't started. It was awful and I had no time in between contractions. It was an awful experience. Not sure why anyone in their right mind would choose to induce. Wait for nature to take its course. Also theres no reason to induce for a "big" baby or if your under 42 weeks.

Lucki... Luckicharmz

I had a membrane sweep done on my due date which is a natural form of trying to induce labour, the midwife only did it because it was a natural option and the cervix was favorable for it.  I understood it didn't guarantee anything and could still go past my due date if nothing happened.

Also Courtney there are most definetly reasons to induce for a big baby 1) moms body is not dealing with the size well 2) babies heart rate is tanking 3) Gestational diabetes etc.   While I agree it should be carefully reviewed before deciding it can't be totally tossed out the window as unecesary


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