What is labor induction?

Labor induction is when a maternity care provider uses artificial ways, like artificial hormones instead of those produced by the mother, to cause labor to start before it starts on its own (spontaneous onset of labor). Scientists do not fully understand how labor begins on its own, so methods used to induce labor are directed at only part of the complex process. For instance, the commonly used induction drug Pitocin is an artificial version of oxytocin, a hormone that causes contractions. But contractions are not always enough to cause labor, so other methods may also be used. These include other hormone medicines, methods to stimulate women's own hormones, mechanical opening of the cervix and breaking the bag of waters.

Most use of drugs or other medical procedures for labor induction does cause labor to begin. However, attempts to induce labor do not lead to labor with about one woman in four, a situation that often ends in cesarean birth.