How Long Does Induced Labor Take? Helpful Info You Need To Know

How Long Does Induced Labor Take

Induction of labor for a vaginal delivery is typically done when there is an issue or complication in the late stages of pregnancy or when a woman is overdue or nearing her due date with no signs of active labor in the near future.

Many women get excited when their doctor tells them they will have an induction of labor, but they also have many questions.

In this article, we’ll talk about vaginal delivery by labor induction. We’ll discuss how long does induced labor take, the uterine contractions associated with it, your baby’s health problems that may contribute to being induced, complications that can arise, how long induction of labor takes, and the pain associated with it.

Why have an induction of labor?

The most common reason a doctor may induce labor is a concern for your baby’s or the mother’s health. 

The following complications are all valid reasons to induce and make induction a better option for closer observation of the mother:

  • high blood pressure for the mother
  • a decrease, increase, or irregularity of your baby’s heart rate
  • previous uterine surgery that may complicate a vaginal birth 
  • a past cesarean delivery 

Also, labor induction increases in women at or past their due date and have not yet experienced any cervical ripening or dilation.

Suppose your baby’s head is in the birth canal, but natural labor isn’t happening. In that case, a healthcare professional often discusses, offers, and sometimes orders the induction process.

The following is a breakdown of the most common reasons to start labor medically.

1. Post-term pregnancy

The third trimester begins at week 28 and extends to week 40. Any pregnancy that goes past 40 weeks gestation is considered post-term.

There are risks associated with going over 40 weeks, and if you are getting close to that point, your doctor may decide to order an induction of labor when labor starting on its own seems unlikely.

Suppose you pass the point of 42 weeks gestation, fetal death (stillbirth), and illness or complications risk increases. Going more than two weeks over your estimated date for delivery can pose a significant risk for the mother. 

Labor is often more painful and complicated, and induction can cause the inner wall of the placental to hemorrhage.

Vaginal tearing and injury are also more likely when you are overdue.

2. Amniotic sac ruptures, but labor doesn’t start

The amniotic fluid that keeps your baby cushioned ruptures, and labor begins. At least, that’s how it’s supposed to happen. 

The amniotic sac can sometimes rupture, but the uterine muscles don’t get the memo, and contractions don’t begin.

In these cases where the water breaks but contractions don’t start, labor induction begins so that you have enough amniotic fluid to keep your baby safe until delivery.

The amniotic sac does more than provide a cushion for the baby. It also keeps your baby’s skin lubricated. 

If induction does not begin soon after your water ruptures with no progression of labor, skin breakdown can introduce pain, the likelihood of infection, and illness for your baby.

3. Gestational hypertension

High blood pressure of the mother can cause complications. 

Your body responds negatively to hypertension, which can also cause problems for the baby. Your baby’s heart rate can be distressed, and your doctor may decide to start labor when this occurs. 

Hypertension is no minor issue when it comes to pregnancy. 

An induction can often give the medical staff a chance to closely monitor your vital signs and the vital signs of your baby through the entire process so that they can step in and intervene if the need arises during the induction process.

4. High-risk pregnancy

Some women are at a higher risk of infection, complications, and stillbirth due to several different factors. These women are often considered high-risk, and giving birth in a controlled setting is often the best action in these cases.

An advanced gestational age, past stillbirth or miscarriage, uterine rupture, issues with the umbilical cord, and other things are issues that may help your doctor decide that medication-induced labor at the hospital is a better idea than a naturally occurring labor.

It should be mentioned that your gestational age alone is often insufficient to warrant an induction of labor.

How Long Does Induced Labor Take

How long does induced labor take?

Most women experience more prolonged labor if it’s their first baby. However, that’s not always the case. 

First-time moms typically take longer to deliver simply because the entire labor and delivery process is new to their bodies.

There’s no way to know precisely how long an induction can take. And it’s not a guarantee that you will have a vaginal birth, even after you go through the contractions and your water breaks. 

Sometimes, a failed induction occurs, and women must have a cesarean delivery anyway.

It can take several hours

Induction, especially for a first-time parent, can take much longer than labor that has started naturally. This is because not everyone responds to medications the same way, some bodies are just not ready to be induced, and the first pregnancy is something entirely new for the woman’s body.

Depending upon the policies of the hospital you are delivering in, you may find out that if an induction begins and does not progress to the point of delivery within 24 hours, there is often a cesarean section performed at that point.

How is an induction performed?

There are several methods of induction that can be performed. The following are the most common ways uterine contractions are started in women with very little cervical ripening before their inductions.

1. Cervical ripening

This can be done in a couple of different ways. The same hormones that thin the cervix naturally can be introduced to the body in synthetic form. This is most effective if the mother is already partially dilated

Contractions typically start soon after, and pain relief is necessary.

Another method is inserting an inflatable balloon attached to a small tube into the small opening of the cervix and inflating that balloon to stretch out the cervix. This is a fairly uncomfortable procedure.

You should always ask your doctor before arriving for your induction appointment which method they intend to perform. It needs to be voiced and discussed if you have an objection to their preferred method. 

If you prefer a specific induction method, you should also bring this up and discuss it with your doctor.

Remember that you are your own health advocate, and your voice should be heard as long as it is not detrimental to your or your baby’s health.

2. Membrane sweeping

Membrane sweeping occurs when the doctor inserts a gloved finger between the uterus and the amniotic sac, separating the two. 

This can sometimes jump-start labor without you being admitted to the hospital.

It’s only effective about half of the time, but many women opt for this method instead of medications that may risk their health or their baby.

This process is often uncomfortable, and it’s done in the exam room of your doctor’s office. 

Because it only works sometimes, you can refuse this method. If you choose to have your membranes swept, you will be sent home to watch for signs of labor.

Make sure you understand all of the signs of labor and have a plan for getting to the hospital if and when labor starts.

3. Pitocin

This medication is administered into a vein to start induction. 

It causes contractions and requires an artificial amniotic sac rupture to move things further. This is done in a regular hospital room rather than an operating room, but you are still closely monitored.

This medication is the synthetic version of oxytocin, the hormone that starts labor. The pain is usually pretty intense, and medications can be given to lessen this pain. 

However, these drugs often slow down the process of labor, which can be frustrating.

How Long Does Induced Labor Take

Is induced labor more painful than natural?

The short answer is yes. Giving birth when your body has induced itself is usually a smoother process. 

When you are induced with medications or by a doctor, the baby is distressed by strong contractions that weren’t natural to the pregnancy.

When you’re induced, the contractions are strong immediately. There’s no build-up. You go from feeling nothing to feeling very strong and high levels of pain. 

Pain-relieving medication and the option for an epidural are available, but epidurals usually slow down the progress of an induction.

Is an induction right for you?

The most critical factor in induction is safety and health. If your pregnancy is high risk or you are experiencing complications towards the end of your pregnancy, then induction may be the best option. 

However, if you simply want an induction because you’re tired of being pregnant, your doctor may advise against it. Inductions are often hard on your body and quite painful.

Labor will happen eventually, whether naturally or by other methods. If you need to have an induction, be sure to communicate well with your doctor, your nursing staff, and with family so that everyone knows what to expect when you are induced.

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