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Induction of Labour


As the due date arrives many women ask how they can speed up or induce their labour and birth. Most women will go into labour spontaneously around the time of their due date but as each day goes by some women may become impatient to see their baby. At these times they ask their midwife for ways to speed up or induce the labour and birth.

There are a variety of different suggestions about how to start labour naturally such as long walks, sex, spicy foods etc. but none have any high level evidence to support them at present.

Induction of labour is a medical process of starting labour but is only offered to women in particular circumstances.

Induction of labour frequently asked questions.

Is it possible to speed up a birth?

Labour and birth can be ‘medically induced’ but this is generally only done when there is a medical/obstetric reason – such as high blood pressure or concerns about the baby’s welfare. The woman and her maternity practitioner have to balance the risks of induction of labour against the risk of continuing with the pregnancy when determining whether the labour should be induced. Induction is more commonly undertaken at 42 weeks  gestation due to a small increased risk at that time.

What options/methods are used?

Medical induction is generally undertaken by inserting a hormonal gel into the vagina – near the cervix. Another method is to place a small balloon into the cervix to help release natural hormones. Often the woman will also require an IV drip with hormones to stimulate the contractions and the baby needs close monitoring which limits the woman’s mobility.

Is it advisable to induce labour?

The exact physiology for the initiation of labour is still not fully understood but is considered to be one of several interactions within the woman and baby’s bodies as the baby approaches maturity. There are many changes that occur in late pregnancy which prepares both the woman and her baby for labour. Induction of labour is an intervention – and if the woman’s body is not ready to labour – can result in more interventions. Women who have their labour’s induced are more likely to need epidural for pain relief, forceps/ventouse or a caesarean section birth. Their babies are also more likely to be admitted to a neonatal intensive care unit.

A recently released study (undertaken in Australia) has found that when early birth is planned (at 39 weeks gestation or less) there is an increased risk of poor child development by school age. This suggests that the timing of birth is important and that we should – wherever possible allow the baby and woman’s bodies determine the optimal timing for labour and birth.