Induction of Labour: Overview, Reasons, Methods & Risks

Published in The Ultimate Baby Book 2021

Dr Chrissie Yu, Consultant in Obstetrics & Fetal Medicine at The Portland Hospital (part of HCA Healthcare UK), says:

In the UK, approximately 20 per cent of pregnancies are induced. In the vast majority of women, there’s a high chance that natural labour will begin before 42 weeks’ pregnancy. However, once you are 10 days overdue, it’s likely that your doctor will discuss the option of an induction.

Induction of labour is done to bring on the first stage of a journey that all pregnant women need to take before they’re in the active phase of labour. Induction takes time, and involves artificial hormones being given to women to soften the neck of the womb and bring on uterine contractions. This is usually followed by the use of a Pitocin drip.

A recent patient-experience survey shows that women who underwent post-date inductions were more satisfied with their delivery than those who waited for longer. Other studies also show that inducing labour carries no increased risk of instrumental delivery, and that it can significantly reduce the risk of caesarean section.

Post-date induction of labour also lowers the risk of your baby inhaling meconium – also known as meconium aspiration syndrome – which can make babies very sick.

On the other hand, going overdue does carry a very small risk to your baby. National statistics show that the risk of stillbirth increase the more overdue you are. At 37 weeks, this risk is at 0.7 per 1,000 and beyond 43 weeks, it increases to 5.8 per 1,000. This risk can be higher with advanced maternal age and if there are other underlying health concerns.

In summary, induction of labour is a very safe process that can help with the natural, safe delivery of your baby with no increased risk for the mother.