Labor induction is the process of artificially initiating labor with drugs.

     The decision to induce labor is not something that should be accepted without careful consideration.  Just about every medical intervention carries risks, and you have to decide for yourself (with the guidance of your doctor or midwife) if the risks outweigh the benefits.... but the final decision rests with the patient, not the caregiver. [See the section below on informed consent.]

     Labor induction carries risks to both the mother and baby; however, there are situations where inductions are medically indicated for the safety of the mom and or the baby.  

     Some of medical reasons for induction are:

  • Early rupture of membranes (your water breaks) before labor begins;
  • Pre-eclampsia, (high blood pressure, protein in your urine, persistent headaches, etc.);
  • Macrosomia – that is a very large baby, as is common in mothers who have Diabetes Mellitus, or gestational diabetes;
  • The baby is not growing well;
  • Infection;
  • The baby is showing signs of stress (a baby that is truly distressed may not be able to withstand the extra stress that induction may cause, or labor at all, so a cesarean section may be indicated);
  • The mother is “post dates”, in other words the pregnancy has continued 1-2 weeks past the due date;
  • Other medical conditions of the mother and baby;
  • Stillbirth. 

     The reasons for induction must be carefully weighed against the risks of allowing labor and deliver progress naturally, because induction can cause death or serious injury to the mother and/or baby. 

Some of the known complications of induction are:

  • The uterus can become hyperstimulated (the uterus is contracting too fast and/or staying contracted for too long);
  • The uterus can rupture;
  • The uterus can fail to contract after delivery, causing serious hemorrhage and a possibly a need for a hysterectomy;
  • The mother can get amniotic fluid embolism (which is when amniotic fluid is forced into the mother's bloodstream and results in a blood clot to the lungs, which can be fatal);
  • Induced labors hurt;
  • The mother is more likely to need anesthesia due to more severe pains with contractions;
  • The mother will require more monitoring and is more likely to be tethered to IV’s and fetal monitors for extended periods of time;
  • The chemically induced labor can take longer than a natural labor;
  • The labor is more likely to result in the need for a cesarean section, or delivery assisted with forceps or a vacuum extractor, each of which carries it own set of serious risks;
  • Infections are more likely to occur.

There are some medical situations where inductions should not be done, or should be done only after careful consideration and with excellent monitoring:

  • The mother’s medical condition and/or the baby’s medical condition will not withstand the stress and/or time required for a chemically induced labor;
  • The  mother poses a serious risk for suffering a uterine rupture. 
    For example she may had prior uterine ruptures, may be grand multiparous, that is having , multiple pregnancies, or she may have had a prior cesarean section or operations on her uterus that left it walls weakened;
  • The baby is known to be too large and/or the mother is known to have a small or inadequate pelvis for delivery;
  • There are problems with the placenta, such as a partial abruption or placenta previa;
  • The mother suffered a previous uterine rupture.


     Elective induction is being done by more mothers and obstetricians, seemingly oblivious that the convenience of having a timed delivery carries some significant risks.  While there are medical situations in which induction is appropriate, this decision should always be discussed and the benefit/risk ratio weighed.  The final decision to induce or not to induce belongs to the mother.  Using Cytotec as the “ripening” or induction agent may heighten the risks for problems, but even Pitocin and the more tried and true induction agents carry significant risks. 

     You may have a lawsuit, if your induction resulted in an injury to either the mother or the baby.  Problems we see frequently when inductions go wrong:

  • The mother may have had an overdose of induction agents;
  • Evidence of uterine hyperstimulation may have been poorly managed;
  • Evidence of fetal distress may have been ignored;
  • The physician, residents, midwife, and/or labor nurse may not have been properly trained or equipped to deal with the emergency.