anxiety about giving birth

Medical Process of Inducing Labor: What SmartMoms Need To Know

Photo by Jessica Janae

Gone are the old days where the only way to have a baby was doubling over in pain and noticing your water breaking in an embarrassing location. Now, many women opt to have their labors induced by use of drugs or procedure. Sometimes, it’s for medical reasons. But, many doctors, nowadays, will induce labor for the mother’s convenience. The process of inducing labor, however, seems daunting.

It’s extremely common for women to induce. WebMD states that 1 in 4 women induce labor.  But, as common as it is, most experts recommend that a woman only induce if medically necessary, as it is not without risks.

If you are thinking about getting induced, you’re probably wondering exactly what will happen.

Here are some of the methods used:

Medicinal Methods

Prostaglandins – If you are being induced and your cervix isn’t yet dilated or thinned out, your induction will probably begin with the drug prostaglandins. It’s a medication that will be inserted into your vagina. It helps to ripen the cervix and will sometimes stimulate enough contractions so you don’t need any further drugs to induce labor.

Pitocin – This is the drug you’ve probably heard of. Pitocin, otherwise known as oxytocin, will be administered through an IV to start your contractions.

Non-Medicine Methods

Foley Catheter – Another way to start the process is using a foley catheter, rather than medicine. Your doctor will insert a catheter with a small un-inflated balloon at the end into your cervix. When the balloon is filled with water, it will put pressure on your cervix, which should hopefully stimulate the release of prostaglandins naturally. Ideally, this would cause your cervix to open and soften and dilate. Then, the balloon would fall out and the catheter would be removed.

Stripping the Membranes – This is an option if your cervix is already a little dilated or if there’s not an urgent reason to induce. As explained by Baby Center, “…your practitioner can insert her finger through the cervix and manually separate your amniotic sac from the lower part of your uterus. This causes the release of prostaglandins, which may help further ripen your cervix and possibly get contractions going.” This can be done in your doctor’s office.

Breaking Your Water – This is also known as “rupturing the membranes” and can only be done if you’re already a few centimeters dilated. Your doctor will put a tiny, plastic hooked tool through your cervix to break your water. The procedure itself is called “amniotomy” and really shouldn’t cause any pain or discomfort. Many women will quickly start contracting after their water has been broken. In some cases, they will still need the drug Pitocin, because once the water has been broken, you should deliver within 12 to 24 hours to avoid a risk of infection for you and your baby.

All Natural Ways

You’ve probably heard of the “natural” ways. Some women (and doctors) swear by them, but others have tried them all and nothing works. In any case, it can’t hurt to try. A lot of women will tell you to have sex! The reason behind this is that semen contains prostaglandins and having an orgasm could stimulate contractions.

Another common suggestion is nipple stimulation. The truth behind this one is that stimulating your nipples releases oxytocin, which may help to get your labor going. Doctors will say not to try this one though because of the possibility of “over-stimulating your uterus.”

I can’t tell you how many moms told me this one – “I just walked the mall, and sure enough, contractions followed.” 

There are many reasons women induce labor. Some women induce because they have gone past their due date. In some cases, it’s because of preeclampsia or some other illness that is threatening the health of mommy or baby. 

I induced my first child because I tested positive for a bacteria (Group B Strep) that could threaten the baby during delivery if I didn’t get IV antibiotics prior to labor. I was dilating early and quickly, so my doctor thought it best to induce a week before my due date, so I could be sure to get the antibiotics I needed in time.

For me, the process was very smooth. I arrived at the hospital showered and comfortable. At 7 a.m., they started the antibiotic drip. After a while, the doctor came in and broke my water, which immediately started the contractions. Pitocin was given shortly after and I delivered my sweet baby at 6:36 p.m. that night. It was a great experience for me (thanks to the epidural).

If you are planning on inducing, not to worry. Like I said earlier, it is extremely common and your doctors know what they’re doing.


Any mommies have advice on inducing labor?! I’m 38 weeks and miserable. Beyond ready for baby to get here!

Ways to induce labor? I really cannot handle this anymore. I’m 38 weeks.

Any moms out there have any successful ways to naturally induce labor?

Has anyone ever used castor oil to induce labor?

Any natural ways to induce labor?

Anyone have any suggestions to help induce labor?

What is your self-inducing success story? I am curious what put you into labor!

Do you think induced labors are more intense/painful than natural?

Any tips on how to naturally induce labor? I’m so done being pregnant!

Tips on how to get labor started naturally (besides castor oil) This is my 2nd baby and my first was induced at 41(almost 42) weeks. Would love to go into labor naturally this time but doc said he will induce at 40 weeks this time.

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About Scarlet Hiltibidal

Scarlet has written for and managed various publications - her articles reaching over 38 million readers. She has a degree in counseling and worked as a 4th grade teacher before entering the media realm. Currently, she writes for Smart Mom and is also writing children's curriculum for a church in Miami. Her favorite things to do are tell her husband every thought that crosses her mind, play with her two little girls, and connect with other moms on the SmartMom app! Visit her blog at and follow her on Twitter @ScarletEH.