Pregnancy and Childbirth

Induced Labor: When is it Necessary?

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Summary & Participants

After nine months of anticipation, an expecting woman finally reaches the last stage of pregnancy--the delivery. For most women, the onset of labor is spontaneous. But what happens if your baby needs a little extra help? Join our panel of experts as they discuss the how and why of induced labor.

Medically Reviewed On: July 21, 2009

Webcast Transcript

MICHELLE LAMOTHE, MD: Hello, and welcome to our web cast. I'm Dr. Michelle La Mothe. For most pregnant women who are ready to deliver their babies, labor starts spontaneously without the need for any intervention. However, for some women, labor needs to be induced using special medications. Joining me today to discuss induction of labor are two experts. To my left, Dr. Adrianne Moore Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Weill Cornell Medical College. And her colleague, Dr. Steven Hockstein, Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology also at the Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City. Welcome to you both.

Let's discuss the reasons for the induction for labor. Would you like to start on that question, Dr. Moore?

ADRIANNE MOORE, MD: There are several reasons for inducing labor. One of them is if the baby is not growing well, for example, and would be better off outside than in. Another common reason for inducing labor is when the pregnancy goes past the due date. And some physicians will induce the labor at 41 weeks, and others will wait until 42 weeks.

MICHELLE LAMOTHE, MD: Dr. Hockstein, tell us some of the medical approaches used to induce labor.

STEVEN HOCKSTEIN, MD: Well, there are several medications that are commonly used to induce labor. If the cervix is already dilated somewhat or ripe, as we call it, you can just begin oxytocin, which is a medication given through an IV. And that brings on contractions.

If the cervix is still not dilated at all when you've reached the end of the pregnancy, medications can be applied directly to the cervix and the vagina. There are prostaglandin tablets that are placed in the vagina. There are prostaglandin gels which are applied to the cervix. And they help soften and change the cervix chemically so that 12 hours later, when oxytocin has started, the cervix can dilated more easily.

MICHELLE LAMOTHE, MD: So an induction can take a long period of time. Somebody just doesn't have one of these gels or mediations placed in the cervix and then immediately goes directly into labor and delivery. It can take some time.

STEVEN HOCKSTEIN, MD: Yes. And it's often done overnight. For the woman whose cervix is not yet ready to go into natural labor, usually, these medications are given over a 12-Hour period. If, however, a woman's body was getting ready to go into labor anyway, sometimes it's quite easy to get her into labor, and it doesn't take long at all. It really depends on what's going on.

MICHELLE LAMOTHE, MD: Now, what about breaking the water - that the physician can break a pregnant woman's water. What help is that?

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