Induction of labor is a procedure that uses medicine to thin and soften the cervix and/or start labor. Some frequently asked questions about induction follow.

If you have any questions that are not answered here, talk to your care provider, your childbirth instructor (in class) or your nurse in the hospital.

What is labor?
It is rhythmic contractions of the uterine muscles. They are forceful enough to open the mouth of the uterus (cervix). This allows for delivery of the baby.

What is "true" labor?
True labor is uterine contractions that are regular and strong enough to open the cervix.

What is "false" labor?
False labor is uterine contractions that are not strong enough to cause cervical change.

What is the cervix?
It is the lowest portion of the uterus. During pregnancy, it stays long and closed and hard. This helps hold the baby in. During labor, the cervix shortens, softens and opens. This allows the baby to be born.

What is an "unripe" cervix?
It is a cervix that is not favorable for induction. It is thick and long, closed and hard.

What is a "ripe" cervix?
It is a cervix that is favorable for induction. It is thin and short, opened a little and soft.

What is a "Bishop Score"?
It is a way to measure how ready you are for induction; what medicine to use; and how to best induce labor. Measures include:

  • Soft vs. hard cervix
  • Open vs. closed cervix
  • Long and thick cervix vs. short and thin cervix
  • Is the baby's head high in the pelvis or is it moving down?
  • Is the cervix tilted backward (posterior) or forward (anterior)?

What are some reasons for an induction?

  • Medically indicated: Diabetes, high blood pressure, etc.
  • Baby overdue: 41-42 weeks gestation
  • Water breaks: Term baby/no labor contractions

How long does an induction take?
It depends on many factors, including:

  • Is this your first baby?
  • Is your cervix ripe?
  • How does your body respond to the medicine used?

Depending on the answers to these questions, induction can last from 8 to 18 hours or more. The average is 14 hours.

Is the pain of contractions worse in an induction?
Some women say no and some say yes. Pitocin causes strong contractions that work to open the cervix. It is very important to remember that nursing staff and your care provider will work closely with you to find effective plan relief measures.

What are my options for pain relief with an induction?
Your options include:

  • Position changes, shower, rocking chair, birthing ball, walking, etc.
  • Intravenous ("IV") medication
  • Epidural anesthesia

Please note that appropriate pain management is decided on an individual basis.

What kinds of medicines are used in an induction?
Ripening agents are medicines placed around the cervix to help it ripen.
Pitocin is an IV medicine used to cause strong, rhythmic uterine contractions.

What kind of monitoring will I have?
Pitocin is given through an IV and the dosages are carefully monitored with an electronic IV pump. Throughout the induction, a fetal monitor will be used to observe contractions and the baby's response to the procedure.

Can I move around or do I have to stay in bed?
You will be encouraged to walk around, rock in the rocking chair and frequently change your position in bed. For most patients, cordless fetal monitors can be used to monitor the baby and allow mom to move around.

Will I be able to eat during an induction?
Because digestion slows during labor, only liquids are recommended. These include Jell-O, clear broth and Popsicles. Some doctors allow ice chips.

Should my whole family come when the induction starts?
It is usually best to limit visitors early in the induction. Because it can last a long time, waiting until near delivery time to call everyone is recommended - for you and for them.