Elective Labor Induction

Pregnancy is an exciting time. It is also, for many women, a time of questions. One of the most common questions asked by expectant mothers is, “When will my baby be born?” Many women also want to know if it’s possible to plan the delivery date of their baby. Discuss the information on this page with your healthcare provider. Together, the two of you can make the best decision for a positive birth experience for you and your baby.

What is elective labor induction?

Sometimes, when a woman is nearing the end of her pregnancy, she may have her labor started (induced) rather than waiting for labor to begin on its own. This is called a labor induction.

When your healthcare provider recommends a labor induction for your health or for the health of your baby, it’s called an indicated labor induction. When labor is induced for a nonmedical reason, for matters of convenience or preference, it’s called an elective labor induction.

When is elective labor induction OK?

Electing to have your healthcare provider induce labor may appeal to you. You may want to plan the birth of your baby around a special date, or around your spouse’s or healthcare provider’s schedule. Or maybe, like most women during the last few weeks of pregnancy, you’re simply eager to have your baby.

However, elective labor induction isn’t always best for your baby or you. Inducing your labor before your cervix is ready has risks. Your care provider will follow the guidelines described here to help determine if and when elective labor induction is OK for you and your baby.

What are the risks associated with labor induction?

With some methods, the uterus can be over stimulated, causing it to contract too frequently. Too many contractions may lead to changes in the fetal heart rate, umbilical cord problems, and other problems, which may include:

  • Infection in the uterus or the baby
  • Increased risk of cesarean birth
  • Much longer labor - perhaps even longer than 48 hours
  • These risks are less common in women who have had a previous vaginal delivery

Expert Guidelines

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) is a professional organization for doctors who deliver babies. The following guidelines are based on advice from this organization.

Your healthcare provider uses these guidelines to make a safe decision about whether or not an elective induction is right for you and your baby. If you don’t meet these guidelines, your healthcare provider may recommend letting labor take its natural course.

Before inducing labor:

  • Your healthcare provider must be certain of your due date to prevent starting labor too early, before your baby is fully developed.
  • You must be at least 39 weeks along in your pregnancy.
  • Your cervix must be soft and ready to open (dilate). Your provider can tell this by examining your cervix to determine a Bishop Score, which is the standard measure for assessing the cervix’s readiness for labor.
  • A Bishop Score of at least 8 for first-time moms is our threshold. With this score, the likelihood of having a vaginal delivery after induction is similar to that of spontaneous labor.

What to expect if you are electively induced

  • Please call at least two hours prior to your arrival in Labor & Delivery
  • On arrival, most patients will get an IV and your baby will be placed on a Fetal Heart Rate (FHR) Monitor
  • First time moms can expect an electively induced labor to last up to 48 hours or more

Note: At CSMC we are dedicated to providing all patients with the best and safest level of care. If your healthcare provider decides to schedule you for an elective induction, you’ll be given a tentative appointment date. Priority for bed space in the Labor and Delivery Unit is given to patients who are in spontaneous labor and those having labor
induced for a medical reason.