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 health care provider recommends a labor induction for your health or for the health of your baby, it’s called an indicated labor induction. However, when labor is induced for a non-medical reason such as convenience or preference, it’s called an elective labor induction.
When is Elective Labor Induction Safe?
Electing to have your health care 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 health care 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. Inducing labor before you are at least 39 weeks along in your pregnancy or before your cervix is ready has risks. Your health care provider will follow the guidelines described here to help determine if and when elective labor induction is safe for you and your baby.
Your Due Date
When you became pregnant, your health care provider gave you an estimated due date for your baby’s arrival. This is the date that your baby is expected to be full-term. Your due date is based on information about your last menstrual period, results from various lab tests and the size of your baby based on early ultrasound.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) is a professional organization for physicians who deliver babies. The following guidelines are based on advice from this organization.Your health care 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 health care provider may recommend letting labor take its natural course.
Before Inducing Labor
• Your health care provider must confirm that you have not previously had a cesarean delivery or major surgery on your uterus.
• Your health care 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 (dilated). Your health care provider can confirm 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 10 for first time moms (8 for others) is a common threshold. With this score, the likelihood of having a vaginal delivery after induction is similar to that of spontaneous labor.
When Labor Is Electively Induced Before 39 Weeks of Pregnancy
• You may have a longer more difficult labor.
• Your baby is two to three times more likely to be admitted to the special care nursery. It may make it harder for you to breastfeed or bond with your baby.
• Your baby may have trouble maintaining body temperature, breathing and feeding.
If you have any questions about elective labor induction, we encourage you to discuss them with your health care provider. Together, the two of you can make the best decision for a positive birth experience.