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?