Can You Avoid Induction? An OB-GYN Weighs In

Some expecting mothers know exactly when their labor will start. You've probably seen more than one Facebook post featuring your very pregnant friend smiling in a hospital gown and sharing the news that she's "getting induced today." Whether they've known their entire pregnancy when they'll be induced or went past their due date and found that induction was the best option, the reasons vary. And while knowing the day and time you'll go into labor is convenient, there's still waiting involved and the worry that induction may produce stronger contractions. So, can you avoid induction?

Romper spoke with Dr. Adrienne D. Zertuche, OB-Gyn at Taylor, Suarez, Cook, Carroll, and Adams (Division of Atlanta Women's Healthcare Specialists) in Atlanta, Georgia to find out. But first, it's important to realize why inductions can be necessary. Over email, Zertuche explains that "there are a number of medical reasons your obstetrician may recommend that you have an induction of labor at or prior to your due date, including high blood pressure, diabetes, low amniotic fluid, a small baby, an older mother, twins, or a chronic medical problem like lupus or kidney disease."

Even pregnant women with no health issues and a smooth pregnancy may become candidates for induction. "If you do not go into labor spontaneously, your obstetrician will recommend an induction of labor one to two weeks after your due date; 'late term' induction at 41 to 42 weeks gestation is standard practice due to the increased risk of stillbirth when the baby stays inside for too long," says Zertuche.

If you end up in this situation and wish to avoid induction, there are plenty of DIY approaches to getting labor started. For example, I didn't go past my due date with either of my two kids, but I found that walking helped speed up my contractions both times. But is there any scientific evidence to support these methods and the anecdotal stories you're sure to hear from well-meaning friends and family? Zertuche explains:

"While there are a number of old wives’ tales about things women can try at home to stimulate spontaneous labor and thereby avoid induction, most of them have not yet been proven in studies. The most effective methods are nipple stimulation and membrane stripping. You should ask your obstetrician if it is safe to try either of these options. While nipple stimulation can be done in the privacy of your own home, membrane stripping is performed in the office by your obstetrician; he or she will use one finger to gently separate your “bag of water”’ from the surrounding cervical and uterine tissue. Some experts believe that exercise, sexual intercourse, acupuncture, and acupressure can also stimulate spontaneous labor, but the evidence is not as strong."

The days leading up to your due date can be a time of great anxiety and excitement. If the big day comes and goes without labor, it's normal to feel frustrated or simply eager to have the baby out. Some natural methods of inducing labor may be harmless even if they don't work, and it gives you something to do in that nesting/worker bee phase of wanting to get everything ready and done. However, it's always a good idea to tell your doctor before you try anything at home. They can help you figure out what's best for you and your baby, even if that means inducing labor.