Visit our foundation to give a gift.
View Locations Near Me
Main Campus – Hartford
Connecticut Children’s – Waterbury
Urgent Care – Farmington
Specialty Care Center – Danbury
Connecticut Children’s Surgery Center at Farmington
Specialty Care Center – Fairfield
Search All Locations
Find a doctor
Find A Doctor
Request an Appointment
Amenities and Services
Who’s Who on Care Team
Getting Ready for Surgery
What to Expect—Picture Stories
Pay a Bill
Understanding the Different Fees
Pricing Transparency and Estimates
Raytheon Technologies Family Resource Center
Family Advisory Council
Legal Advocacy: Benefits, Education, Housing
Electronic Health Records
Share Your Story
Pay a Bill
Login to MyChart
Clinical Support Services Referrals
About the Network
Join the Network
Graduate Medical Education
Continuing Medical Education
MOC/Practice Quality Improvement
Educating Practices in the Community (EPIC)
Learning & Performance
Meet our Physician Relations Team
Request Medical Records
Join our Referring Provider Advisory Board
View our Physician Callback Standards
Read & Subscribe to Medical News
Register for Email Updates
Update Your Practice Information
Refer a Patient
Find and Print Health Info
Health Information For Parents
It’s common for many pregnant women, especially first-time mothers, to watch their baby’s due date come and go without so much as a contraction. The farther away from the expected delivery date (called the EDD) you get, the more anxious you might become. You may start to wonder — is this baby ever going to come?
Late pregnancy can be challenging — you may feel large all over, your feet and back might hurt, you might not have the energy to do much of anything, and you’re beyond ready to meet the little one you’ve nurtured all this time. Which is why waiting a little longer than you’d expected can be particularly hard.
Still, being past your due date doesn’t guarantee that your doctor (or other health care provider) will do anything to induce (or artificially start) labor — at least not right away.
Labor induction is what doctors use to try to help labor along using medications or other medical techniques. Years ago, some doctors routinely induced labor. But now it’s not usually done unless there’s a true medical need for it. Labor is usually allowed to take its natural course. However, in some situations, a health care provider may recommend induction.
Your doctor might suggest an induction if:
Induction also can be appropriate under certain circumstances, as with a mother who is full term and has a history of rapid deliveries or lives far from a hospital.
Some mothers request elective inductions for convenience, but these do come with risks. Doctors try to avoid inducing labor early because the due date may be wrong and/or the woman’s cervix might not be ready yet.
Some methods of induction are less invasive and carry fewer risks than others. Ways that doctors may try to induce labor by getting contractions started include:
Stripping the membranes can be a little painful or uncomfortable, although it usually only takes a minute or so. You may also have some intense cramps and spotting for the next day or two.
It can also be a little uncomfortable to have your water broken. You may feel a tug followed by a warm trickle or gush of fluid.
With prostaglandin, you might have some strong cramping as well. With oxytocin, contractions are usually more frequent and regular than in a labor that starts naturally.
Inducing labor is not like turning on a faucet. If the body isn’t ready, an induction might fail and, after hours or days of trying, a woman may end up having a cesarean delivery (C-section). This appears to be more likely if the cervix is not yet ripe.
If the doctor ruptures the amniotic sac and labor doesn’t begin, another method of inducing labor also might be necessary because there’s a risk of infection to both mother and baby if the membranes are ruptured for a long time before the baby is born.
When prostaglandin or oxytocin is used, there is a risk of abnormal contractions developing. In that case, the doctor may remove the vaginal insert or turn the oxytocin dose down. While it is rare, there is an increase in the risk of developing a tear in the uterus (uterine rupture) when these medications are used. Other complications associated with oxytocin use are low blood pressure and low blood sodium (which can cause problems such as seizures).
Another potential risk of inducing labor is giving birth to a late pre-term baby (born after 34 and before 37 weeks). Why? Because the due date (EDD) may be wrong. Your due date is 40 weeks from the first day of your last menstrual period (LMP).
Babies born late pre-term are generally healthy but may have temporary problems such as jaundice, trouble feeding, problems with breathing, or difficulty maintaining body temperature. They may also be more likely than full term babies to have developmental or school problems later on.
Even though inductions do come with risks, going beyond 42 weeks of pregnancy can be risky, too. Many babies are born “post-term” without any complications, but concerns include:
Old wives’ tales abound about ways to induce labor, such as the use of castor oil. It is not safe to try to artificially start labor yourself by taking castor oil, which can lead to nausea, diarrhea, and dehydration. And herbs and herbal supplements meant to induce labor can be harmful. Breast stimulation can cause uterine contractions by causing the release of oxytocin. However, some studies have suggested that the baby might have abnormal heartbeats after breast stimulation. Some women feel that having sex in late pregnancy can induce labor, but there is no conclusion on this yet.
Talk to your doctor before doing anything to try to encourage your little one’s arrival. Inducing labor is best left to medical professionals — you may cause more harm than good.
As frustrating as it can be waiting for your baby to finally decide to arrive, letting nature take its course is often best, unless your doctor tells you otherwise. Before you know it, you’ll be too busy to remember your baby was ever late at all!
Advice and information for expectant and new parents.
The reality of labor and birth may seem extremely far off – but now’s the time to start planning for your baby by creating a birth plan that details your wishes.
Epidurals can make giving birth more calm, controlled, and comfortable. Find out more.
Meconium aspiration can happen before, during, or after labor and delivery when a newborn inhales a mixture of meconium and amniotic fluid. Although it can be serious, most cases are not.
Many babies are delivered via cesarean sections. Learn why and how C-sections are done.
Some women choose to give birth using no medications at all, relying instead on relaxation techniques and controlled breathing for pain. Get more information on natural childbirth.
Learning all you can about childbirth pain is one of the best ways to help you deal with it when the time comes.
Find out what the experts have to say.
Where you choose to give birth is an important decision. Is a hospital or a birth center right for you? Knowing the facts can help you make your decision.
Our week-by-week illustrated pregnancy calendar is a detailed guide to all the changes taking place in your baby – and in you!
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
© 1995-2020 KidsHealth®. All rights reserved.
Images provided by The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.