Inducing Birth- What are Inductions? Do Inductions work? Should I get Induced?


Inducing Birth- What are Inductions? Do Inductions work? Should I get Induced?Getting Induced means using outside means to jump start labor. Normal labor is an amazing interplay of hormones & other things between the baby, who initiates and controls labor by emitting hormones, and the mama.

It’s like a symphony…the music dances back & forth getting louder, softer, louder & ends at the finale (welcome to the world little one!).

Induction is a lot different. It’s a one way ticket saying “hey baby, ready or not the party is starting…let’s get you into the world.

Inductions are done for several reasons:

  1. Mama is approaching her due date- or may be past it.
  2. Mama is uncomfortable & ready to be done.
  3. Convenience on the part of healthcare provider or parents.
  4. Baby or mama has a medical need (ie- preeclampsia, baby isn’t growing or moving around, you have a uterine infection, etc).

So what’s the big whoop?

Research shows that unless medically required (and in some cases when mom is at 41 weeks), there are significant  risks to consider (for baby & mom). Having talked with 100′s of moms, they often say they were strongly encouraged to induce, when no medical requirement existed & were not talked to about the risks involved. We want to make sure you’re getting a complete picture, so you can make the best decision for you. 

When your baby us hurried before they’re ready to be born, there can be immediate complications such as respiratory issues (because the lungs aren’t mature), inability to maintain their own temperature, but also future issues such as developmental delays, allergies, or asthma. In the late stages of baby’s development in the womb, that’s when a significant amount brain development & lung development happen.

Research also shows that inducing labor before baby is ready can lead to C-Sections (major abdominal surgery). More research shows allowing more time for women to labor & reducing the number of inductions would decrease the number of C-sections.

Here is a study of more than 7,800 women that was published in Obstetrics & Gynecology, the official publication of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (they provide recommendations for 90% of OB/GYNs).

Pitocin is the drug used most often to induce labor. On the Pitocin label, it says: “IMPORTANT NOTICE-Elective induction of labor is defined as the initiation of labor in a pregnant individual who has no medical indications for induction. Since the available data are inadequate to evaluate the benefits to-risks considerations, Pitocin is not indicated for elective induction of labor. Antepartum: Pitocin is indicated for the initiation or improvement of uterine contractions, where this is desirable and considered suitable for reasons of fetal or maternal concern, in order to achieve vaginal delivery.

The US National Library of Medicine & National Institute of Health defines the word “indicated” to mean “to call for especially as treatment for a particular condition”. The Webster definition is “advisable”. What does that definition mean to you?

Many hospitals & providers follow strict guidelines & only induce for medical reasons. But in other hospitals, inductions are often encouraged for non-medical reasons & given out like Halloween candy. Evidence here from Lamaze International on inductions. What does induction look like?

There are two main types of induction: Medical & Non-medical

Non-medical Induction:

  • Having sex.
  • Giving yourself an enema or downing some castor oil (sounds amazing doesn’t it ?)
  • Using herbs or homeopathic remedies to induce labor .
  • Walking like crazy (once you’ve started labor, it can decrease labor length).
  • Stimulating the nipples… (now we’re talkin ’)
*Just because mamas do these things, doesn’t mean they are SAFE, they WORK, or should be done at all. Please talk to your provider before trying any/all of these methods. They each carry risks.*


Medical Induction: 

Stripping membranes (when the lower part of the amniotic sack is separated from the uterine wall, therefore releasing prostaglandin hormones- which could get labor started).

Pitocin- a synthetic form of your body’s naturally produced oxytocin. Pitocin is very effective but brings on labor contractions that are wayyyy stronger, longer & closer together than your body’s natural contractions would be (that’s why most moms getting induced get Epidurals).

This means you’ll have a monitor attached to you at all times to make sure the baby is tolerating the super strong contractions. It’s common for baby not to tolerate these contractions (especially if your provider increases Pitocin to the “allowable limit”), because your body does not respond to Pitocin (synthetic oxytocin) like the natural oxytocin it produces in the pituitary gland in your brain.

Naturally produced oxytocin (from your brain) stimulates your uterus to contract in a predictable rhythmic pattern. Like waves at the beach. You know how surfers catch waves & have some time between waves? That’s similar to your own contractions, they come in a rhythm giving you & baby time to breathe, relax, get some oxygen in between & rest. (One mom shows you how she did this very effectively by sleep breathing right here.)

Contractions with synthetic Pitocin often arrive continuously & are much stronger {moms report them being more painful because they are more erratic and you & baby have less time to rest, get oxygen, etc.}.

Because Pitocin can’t cross the blood barrier to the brain (your brain’s ninja-like self-defense mechanism which prevents ‘things’ in your blood from reaching your brain ), you won’t have the same rush of natural oxytocin flowing through your brain. For Moms who’ve been induced with Pitocin & also had a birth without Pitocin…this is one of the main reasons “why” they didn’t like it. Because it “feel”s like a completely different experience. That’s because physiologically it is. Your brain experiences something different, which means you “feel” everything different (pain, bonding, etc.). 

Oxytocin is the “love hormone” hormone responsible for the deep bonding you feel during sex, breastfeeding, after an amazing dinner, physical touch or other deep connection you feel with someone.  

Some doctors report the biggest surge of Oxytocin you’ll ever get happens immediately when baby is born & immediately after baby is born (baby’s oxytocin levels surge too). 

Ask questions to moms who’ve been induced medically & who also went into spontaneous labor without drugs. They will help you understand how the contractions were different. 

Ripening the cervix- there are a couple different methods to achieve this, one is the Foley Bulb Catheter which is inserted and blown up with saline solution in your uterus. The idea is that the pressure from the bulb will cause your cervix to soften and open. There are also a few other cervix ripening drugs used: Cervadil & Prepadil (drug in gel form) or Cytotec to ripen your cervix as well. Talk to your Provider about your options.

Breaking water- a crochet hook looking instrument is inserted in your vajayjay and your amniotic sack is broken causing your water to break. If you’re in a hospital, chances are they have a policy that once your water breaks, you have 24 hours to give birth (for fear of infection). Newer guidelines though give doctors & staff criteria for signs of infection and antibiotics are started on need rather than a 24- hour time limit.

Laminaria is another method, which is basically a stick made from dried seaweed. Yeah, we know it sounds weird. The laminaria is inserted into your cervix and it absorbs fluids, which can help dilate your cervix (that means it thins your cervix- see a ton of super helpful definitions here). Laminaria has been associated with increased infections (thought to be from the non-sterile drying process). As always, talk to your Provider to learn the more.

What to do?

It’s wise to learn about & have a conversation with your provider on induction BEFORE you might need it. In other words, use your prenatal appointments to discuss with your provider these potential scenarios, so that you…

1. Know where you stand 2. Know where your provider stands 3. Familiarize yourself with hospital policy. You want to be on the same page before you find yourself in labor (or desperately wanting to be).

Make sure to ask lots of questions. The question “WHY” (as we learn from toddlers), is a very powerful question. It usually gets to the root of the information we Want to know & Need to know quickest.

Dr. Lucky Jain, a neonatologist (specializes in high-risk babies) from Emory University School of Medicine, told us a story. A military dad was deploying for Iraq. The family decided to induce early, so he could meet his baby. He met the baby, but the baby had serious respiratory issues & spent a long time in the NICU.

What would you have done. Why? You might be faced with a similar scenario. Stick with us and we’ll help you get clarity…  you’ll understand the risks & you’ll know what you want to do. We’d love to help you be confident in your decisions- whatever you decide!

Our first question to Dr. Jain was “what’s the one thing you’d love new mama’s to learn from all your experience as a neonatologist & as a dad?” He said, “To respect the natural labor process when baby is ready. Every minute counts. click to tweet

He has a very credible perspective, because his job is to help sick babies every day. He said that until the baby kicks off labor by emitting its own hormones, any other kind of induction is responsible for pre-mature labor.

You can watch Dr. Lucky Jain’s interview here.


Inducing is a valuable intervention, when medically needed, that can save lives.

On the flip side, when not medically required- inductions introduce numerous risks. This is your pregnancy, it’s your decision to decide if the risks are worth taking.

99% of women will go into labor on their own without any external help (spontaneous labor means going into labor on your own). Your “due date” is a “guess” based on a bell curve developed in the 1800’s- learn more about your due date here. 

To interfere in your natural labor process without clear medical need could mean lifelong repercussions for you and your baby. Some providers & hospitals do not adequately inform mamas of these risks. Many birth education classes don’t touch this. That’s just ridiculous! 

It’s something to be aware of, not scared of. Keepin’ it real friends. No fluff.

Want to learn what Doctors, Doulas, Midwives, Lactation Consultants, Nutritionists & more (they’re also moms) most important lessons learned on things like Inductions, Epidurals, Cord Clamping, Medicated births, Unmedicated births & so much more? Drop your email below… 

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 What do you think? …share below…. 

  • Laurie

    Good topic, and nice to really scrutinize it. I wish I had done so four years ago. My induction turned out just fine, probably as smooth as anyone could have hoped for. Still, looking back, I don’t think I would have gone along with an induction if I had to do it again. I was induced with my third pregnancy mainly because of how quickly my second child was born. We basically just made it to the hospital with #2. But I had so much fear that the same thing would happen again that my doctor suggested an induction at 39 weeks. She (my OB) did not push me towards it, but offered it as an option b/c I had already had two relatively quick and easy deliveries (thankfully). Like I said, I was given Pitocin and all went smoothly, but since I wasn’t 100% comfortable at the time with the procedure, now I can look back and say that I should have just waited for baby to come on her own. (hindsight is always 20/20, right?) My advice to anyone in a similar situation is to really think carefully. Weigh the pros and cons. Come up with some things that might help you get through that last week or two and the delivery without anxiety. Boost your support system! Give yourself a chance to feel great about your decision, whatever it is.

    • yourbabybooty

      Ohhh I love that sentence “give yourself a chance to feel great about your decision, whatever it is…” that is FANTASTIC advice. I know there have been times for me as a mama when I said “yes” to something that I wasn’t 100% behind. It can shake your confidence when you have that nagging feeling that you aren’t satisfied with your decision. Thanks for sharing Laurie:)