Induction - what to expect

Inducing pregnancy – what to expect

Having your labour induced is fairly common – about one in five babies are born following an induced labour. You’ll usually be offered an induction if you or you baby’s health is at risk, or because your baby is late.

What is induction?

Induction is when your labour is started artificially. This can be done using a membrane sweep or synthetic hormones.

Why might I need to be induced?

You’re most likely to be offered and induction if:

  • your waters have broken – you’ll be offered an induction if you are more than 34 weeks pregnant and your waters have broken, but you haven’t gone into labour after 24 hours. This is to avoid the risk of infection.
  • your baby needs to be delivered for medical reasons – if you are showing signs of Pre-eclampsia, for example, or you have Gestational diabetes and your baby is getting quite big.
  • your pregnancy goes beyond 40 weeks – this is the most common reason for induction. This is because, after 41 weeks, your placenta may not work as well and the risks to your baby increase.

How is it done?

Your midwife or doctor will explain why you are being offered induction, and tell you about the risks and benefits. There are several ways to induce labour:

Membrane sweep

If you are still pregnant at 40 (for first-time mums) or 41 weeks, you will be offered a ‘membrane sweep’. Your midwife or doctor will do an internal exam and sweep their finger around the inside of the cervix to loosen it from the membranes around your baby. This releases hormones called prostaglandins, which may start labour off.

Membrane sweep success rate

About half of women who have a membrane sweep go into labour within 48 hours. It won’t increase your risk of infection but it may feel uncomfortable and you may notice some slight bleeding afterwards. It can be done in hospital or at your routine antenatal appointment, and you can go home afterwards to wait for labour to begin.

If it doesn’t work the first time, you can request a second or even a third one.


If you don’t go into labour following membrane sweeping, you will be offered an induction using prostaglandins. These synthetic hormones help to start labour by encouraging the cervix to soften and shorten, allowing it to open and Contractions to begin.

Prostaglandins are given as a tablet, gel or pessary inserted into your vagina. This is done in hospital, but you may be able to go home and wait for contractions to start. Most women will go into labour, although more than one dose may be needed. When contractions start, your baby will be monitored using an electronic fetal monitor. If your baby is fine, the monitor can be removed and your midwife will use a small hand-held monitor for the rest of your labour.


This is a synthetic form of the hormone your body produces naturally to start labour off. You will only be offered it if prostaglandins don’t work. Oxytocin is given through a drip, which is attached to a needle (canula) inserted into your arm. Once the drip is set up, your baby will be monitored continuously with an electronic fetal monitor. If your waters haven’t broken already, your midwife may suggest breaking them artificially. This is not usually painful but some women find it a bit uncomfortable. Many women find labour induced with a drip more painful than normal labour, and more women choose to have an epidural for pain relief.

Can I say no to induction?

Yes, you can. Your doctor or midwife will discuss all the benefits and risks with you so that you can make an informed decision. If you go beyond 42 weeks, you will be offered regular monitoring and a scan to check how well your placenta is working and how your baby is doing.

Will induction harm my baby?

If you have your membranes broken artificially there's a small risk that your baby's cord will become prolapsed, but your midwife or doctor will examine you carefully to make sure your risk of prolapse is low before carrying out the procedure. There's also a small risk that your uterus may rupture if you have an induced labour after a previous caesarean delivery.

On the other hand, an induced labour may well benefit your baby if there are medical reasons to deliver him or if he is very overdue as the risk of complications increases after week 41.

Are there any alternatives to induction?

Some women like to try natural forms of induction or complementary therapies to kickstart labour. While there isn't much evidence to support them, these methods may be worth trying.

  • Sex – some people believe the prostaglandins in sperm can help to start labour.
  • Nipple stimulation is also supposed to help labour begin, but you do have to do it for quite a while!
  • Some women believe that complementary therapies, such as acupuncture and homeopathy, can help get things started. Make sure you discuss it with your midwife first, though, and choose a qualified practitioner.

How to cope with an induction

First, make sure that you understand why you are being offered an induction. How will it be carried out, and what will the likely course of your labour be? Ask whether you may need other interventions during labour.

Remember that you don't have to give up on all the self-help techniques you've learned for labour just because you are having an induction. Talk with your midwife about how you can move around, change position and use breathing and relaxation to help you cope with the pain, even if you have a drip.

Keep an open mind about pain relief and choose what is best for you when, and if, you decide you need some help.

A mum says...

"I was given the gel and pessary first. It did start mild tightening but that stopped overnight. I was given the drip at 9am the next day. You cannot move as your baby has to be monitored through the whole labour. You have very limited space in which you can stand or walk. The actual canula in your hand isn't that bad. It soon gets forgotten about when contractions start!"


I wanted to share my experience of having been induced. I was advised to be induced due to lack of foetal movement over a prolonged period of time, so the doctor gave me a sweep and then said if I didn't go into spontaneous labour within two days I had been booked in for induction. I didn't go into labour and was given the prostaglandin at 9:30am which was no more uncomfortable being put in then a routine internal. The around 15:00 I was having back pain, which I can only describe as period pains. With this the midwife said to jump in the bath so I did this for about 30 minutes. By around 16:00 I just started contracting back to back non stop this continued and I ended up having my beautiful baby boy by 21:13 that same evening. I would say with induction every person is different they say with your first child your going to be in labour a long time, I wasn't. They say the same with induction that you are to prepare yourself for a long haul but as you can tell from my experience this wasn't the case!
I just want to share with you my experience of induction, I was induced with my second child at 38 weeks and have to say it was the most painful and traumatic experience of my life, ending with a full resuscitation of my son. I was then very scared when doctors told me I had to be induced with my 5th child last month at only 36 weeks. I have to say though that this time it was an incredibly easy labour requiring nothing other than entonox for the final 45 minutes. In all my labour was 4 hours, (I had both the prostaglandin gel and the oxytocin drip) my daughter was not distressed at any time and was born a small but healthy 5Ib 7oz. As with a natural labour an induced labour can be unpredictable and no 2 are the same, to anyone who is due to be induced all I can say is relax and take it as it comes, if you need pain relief ask for it, if not well done and soon you will have your little one in your arms.
I'm 40+3 days. I was in hospital lastnight due to contractions. But because my cervix was closed they sent me home, is there any chance I could asked to be induced or any way to start labour off properly? My waters have not broken either.
I was overdue by 12days and had induction in hospital the nurse did memberance sweep on me and told me ur cervix is way too back,she then insert postelgland in me which started my contraction were really painfull i was 3 cm dilliuted after 3 hours i was then sent to labour ward with horiffing pains and was begging for epidural still had to wait untill i was 6 was using gas mask which did help and made me drowsey i then had epidural good point was my pain was gone but my contraction slowed down which made my labour longer nurse then put hormon drip on this is when the scary part start my epidural came off from my back and i was in pain and had to push it was verypainfull good luck to mums who get induce its quicker but painfull.
Hi guys im being induced on Thursday 31st Jan ( my own birthday) 2013 even tho im only 37 weeks on that day . I came out of a traumatic weekend in hospital ladt night after being admitted with contraction like tightening as its my 6 th child they didn't wanna take no chances as labour can be quick after 2 blood transfusions 2 steroid injections to help my bbu girls lungs to develop they let be home to prepare for induction Thurs they think my bby is far to small for 37 wks and say I've got to much fluid they also found a 5 cm cyst on her little Overy as you can imagine im scared to death never had problems before but my consultant is just goin to induce me by breakin my waters straight away hopefully my labour shud start quickly and end quickly im already 2cm dilated has anybody else experienced any similer problems in there past or previous pregnancies I would be grateful for your info . Xx
I just wanted to share my experience of being induced with you. I had two sweeps, and after the second one caused a bleed (and meant two nights in hospital for me!) I refused the third. I went in to hospital to be induced on my 10th day over and the first thing they did (at 8am Sunday) was insert a sort of tampon of Prostaglandins, which stays in for 24 hours and is meant to ripen the cervix, but can be removed if it causes too many contractions. They told me that if this didn't work they would try the Prostaglandins gel next, but 15 hours (11pm Sunday) after this tampon thing my waters broke and contractions began. I then had contractions every 4 or 5 minutes for 10 hours, but they weren't lasting long enough and my cervix still hadn't shortened. And because I wasn't in established labour I couldn't have the good drugs - just paracetamol! I think this was the worst part of my labour, especially since I was on the ward so my husband couldn't stay with me through the night. At about 9am they decided that my cervix was ripe enough for me to go on the Oxytocin drip, which I didn't like the sound of but my body just wasn't speeding up the contractions naturally. Because I was on the drip my birth plan went out of the window! I had wanted to remain mobile and maybe use a bath for pain relief, but being on the drip means constantly being monitored. I think I could have got to the birth ball if I really wanted to but I couldn't walk around. After a few more hours they gave me diamorphine (my hospitals alternative to pethadine) and a cathata (not as scary as I thought it would be!) so I really was stuck to the bed. The diamorphine was marvellous and should be available to buy in shops! After a long and painful sleepless night the diamorphine sent me to sleep, and I dozed for the majority of my labour. After about 4 hours I had another half dose of the diamorphine and towards the end of my first stage, when I was unknowingly going through transition, I did start using gas and air; however I don't think gas and air did much. I'd lost track of time at this point, but after a bad half an hour where my husbands hand really got it the pains got a bit easier. It was this point that my husband kindly reminds me that I sent him to find the midwife because "I have to come off the drip - I need to get up and go for a poo!". Turns out that meant I was ready, and just 3 contractions worth of pushing later (and a small cut meaning one stitch) our healthy baby girl was born at 6.52pm Monday. Overall a long and knackering labour, but once I got the good drugs it really did fly by. Sorry to post such a long comment, but I was so nervous about being induced after hearing so many horror stories (the drip makes contractions a lot more painful / labour is horrendous if you're not allowed to get up / the pain killers make you really sick ...) I thought it might help someone to hear about my good experience. I'd definitely go through labour again, just so long as they give me diamorphine nice and early next time :D
Well looks like i will be in for an induction tomorrow. Not looking forward to the experience as I was all set for a natural home birth (had my first at home and it was wonderful!) Still at 11 days overdue it will be a welcome relief to no longer be pregnant and hold my baby for the first time. Two sweeps have proved unsuccessful and despite now being 2 cm dilated I'm still not in labour! Still you gotta do what you gotta do, its all worth it when you finally get to meet your bub!
41 weeks pregnant today and no sign of baby despite trying pretty much all of the old wives' tales (except raspberry leaf tea). Had membrane sweep on due date but didn't work as midwife said I was too tense - tried to relax with breathing techniques, but it wasn't exactly natural having a stranger's fingers in me so I don't know what I could have done differently. She's trying again on Tues and I am hoping and praying that things will start moving by then. But who knows?! Induction booked for one week today when I'll be 42 weeks. Bored, frustrated, scared. Feeling housebound doesn't help. I can get out and about walking but local area isn't great - not much to see and I'm really uncomfortable driving. Grr!
Im 40 weeks and 2 days, nothing seems to be happening. I'm getting a bit down as i'm worried if it comes to a c section which i really want to avoid. Next week im having a membrane sweep, just hope i go in to labour before or after the sweep, i really dont want to be induced. I've tried walking, going up/down the stairs, spicy foods, raspberry leaf tea, the lot. Is anyone experiencing the same? Any advice would be appreciated xx
hi,i am 40wks and 4 days overdue.i had a mambrane sweep bt it was unsuccessfull and i was fully scared of this method.now i m worries its going to be nxt weak again.
I am 41 weeks today and having a 2nd stretch and sweep done later. The first one didn't hurt, it just felt uncomfortable - but I was glad when it was over! I'm worried about what will happen if this doesnt work, as I really don't wanna have to go to hospital to be induced :( hurry up baby!!!
hi guys, i am 40 weeks pregnant today and had my midwife, i have been told that i have to go and see a consultant as my baby is still not engaged! She said it could be that she is to big for me to deliver naturally or that she is on her side but slightly on her back so she cant engage her head properly, so its looking more likely for me to have a c-section or be induced! im terrified and dont know what to expect, any advice would be great!
Hi mums to be, I am 36 years old expecting my second son after 14 years. I was 3days past my due date last time and am already 2 days past this time. Although I had to have a forceps delivery last time but believe me girls...assisted birth, Painful internals/sweeps, inductions, c sections etc...when you hold your baby in your arms for the first time..you forget it all!!!! If you didn't why would any woman ever get pregnant again??! So think positive girls no matter which procedure you have to have done to bring another life into this world it's definately worth it! :0) By the way this pregnancy has been very different from tge last and I have an internal stretch in 4 days I am sure it will be painful but no more than a cervical smear hence but thing I am planning to do is relax my muscles, concentrate on my breathing and stay positive and think about holding my new baby soon in my arms :0) x
im 40+ 4 days im 2cm dilated and had my membrane sweep yesterday having pains they just arent getting regular!!! most depressed ive ever been REALLY dont want an induction!!!! :(
I am 2 days overdue with my first child. I went to see my Midwife yesterday who tried to do a Membrane Sweep but apparantly my daughter has only just gone into the engaged position and is not ready to be delivered as yet. She has advised me to do lots of excercise and have lots of sex (although she put it as 'early nights with your partner') - The only problem with that is I am constantly tired and have no energy for a short walk never mind the idea of sex! I have been planning on having a Water Birth at our local Birthing Centre instead of going into hospital and only using 'gas and air' as I am terrified of needles but am worrying myself sick that this won't be possible anymore and something will go wrong.
i am 3 days over due and get really tierd and fed up and scared.. reading all this comments have made me even more scared.. just hope my little one decides to come soon.. as this is my first child and havnt a clue what a sweep is :/ x
hey guys i'm 41+7days overdue i been induce Monday finger gross i can't wait to see my angel!!
This is me 41+4 and have had two membrane sweeps lots of pains just not kicked started contractions so am off to hospital tomorrow to get induced, hopefully we will finally meet our third baby x
i am 40wks today and i am booked in for my sweep this afternoon. quite nervous as people have said it is painful, but i'd rather that than anymore uncomfortablness. fingers crossed.
i'm 38 and in my 2nd pregnancy after 14 years, i'm 41+3 weeks now, had a s+s last week which hasn't worked... unfortunately was hoping for a home birth so i have just 3 days for the little one to appear or i have to go to hosptal for an induction........ Fingers crossed things never turn out the way you plan!! ;-)
my LB is 6 months now and i was 2 weeks overdue when they induced me. They had tried a sweep but it didnt work so a week later i was induced and eventually at 6.30pm they broke my waters ,,,baby here at 01.50 :) xx
I am 40 weeks and 5 days today and had a sweep yesterday but was told that it did not work as my cervix was too far back. This is my 2nd child and I had a sweep last time too although i was also told it did not work then but 2 days later he was here. I don't feel like anything is happening this time yet and am very disappointed that I have not met my little one yet - I'm getting really impatient as I have been booked for induction on 7th October but for one dose of gel only as i had a c section last time but the midwife told me yesterday it is unlikely to work so am considering just requesting another c section instead, not sure they will listen to me though! :o(
Im 40weeks and 5days over due and ive had the sweep but im only 1cm dilated and ive tryed everythink what people have been telling me and the baby is still not shifting and its annoying me that its not here yet and scared off the labour
my due date was 16th july 2011 I am 40+6wks with my 2nd baby. Had a sweep early hours yesterday and although started strong contractions they have come to nothing and I just feel absolutely exhausted. Am being induced tomorrow, they say they are just going to break my waters as I am already 2cm, hope it happens quickly as can't wait to see LO now. :-)
My baby is due today and no sign of her yet..so fingers crossed for later on..or hopefully sunday. Dont really still want to be sat as of monday as sweep is looming and the pain in my cervix and lower back is already creasing me. Good luck to everyone else still waiting! xx
i was due 17th june and now im 5 days over. i really think they got my due date wronge but never the less i still beleive im in my nineth month and the pressure from doctors family and friends is piling on. i had a membrane sweep once it didnt do anything except hurt me and make me bleed. ive been getting pains here and there and always wonder if its real labour but i sopose after the membrane sweep i kinda felt how labour will feel like (the type of pain i will be getting.. kinda like really reallyy bad period pain, weakness, cramps).
With my last pregnancy I was due on the 27th March, but didnt have my lo until the 5th April. I was due 2 b induced in 4 days, but it was my 3rd sweep that finally got things moving. Sending me straight into advanced labour 10 days over! Luckily the pool was available, and it turned out 2 b the best experience of my life! Well worth waiting 4!
i was due my little boy on the 25th of april and i am going to hospital on tuesday the 3rd of may for a membrain sweep god i hope it works xxx
Hi. I'm 41+4 still no baby. I'm gonna be induced tomorrow. I'm so scared, don't want any artifitial staff. I realy tried everything to get it going meself (hot curry, clary sage oil, walking alot, sex) nothing realy helped me, don't know why. I feel terrible, feel like freek, why my baby doesn't want to come out?
in getting indued this monday one week early coz im having twin boys non identical. this information is great as i havent got a birthing plan ,
i was due on the 28th march cant believe my little boy isnt here yet, im being induced friday dont really no what to expect,but just want my little boy now xxx
hiya guys, atm im 40+3 un this baby no.3...i didnt expect to go over my edd, but i guess thats the nature of this game!! I was induced with both my other children un REALLY wanted to start this labour off naturally....i was seen by mt consulatant yesterday,she tried to do a sweep bt couldnt so am due to have 1 beg.of the wk...im booked in 4 induction on the 12th of this month.I was jst wonderin whether any1 had any really good ideas of anything i can try to get things going myself..atm im drinking rasberry tea which is helping(i think lol) but any ideas from other expectant mums would b great...v.fed-up now :/ thx guys x
Was due last Wednesday & am booked to be induced on Monday, as sweep hasn't seemed to help at all. Just want him out!
i was due the 20th march so im 6 days overdue its so uncomfortable and i had the membrain sweep last tuesday but that hasnt worked! seeing the midwife this tuesday and hopefull that week get induced that week im so bored and tryed everything hurry up girly
Was due on sunday 20th march 2011 second baby, now overdue by 4 days very anxious as first baby was extremely quick but was also a week late. have decided on a home birth this time so my little one doesn't get freaked by new baby, he's been so intested the whole way through pregnancy.have midwife friday for membrane sweep just hope something happens before hand!! Come on baby!!!!
my due date was 14 march 2011,but my baby is overdue.dont knw the reason.i even went to consult my midwife many tymes but she did cervix examination by jst letting me know that it happens in first pregnanacy :-( i m scared of vaginal xamination again at monday.
My due date was also 4 March 2011, so am 9 days overdue now. Had a sweep on Friday; but midwife wasn't very optimistic that it would work as apparently bubba's head still isn't very low ... Have been booked in to be induced next week - am really hoping that he comes naturally in the next few days! Haven't had any feelings that the sweep has worked : [ No contractions or anything.
my due date was 4/3/11, 6 days over now!! due to have my first sweep tomorrow...getting nervous but just want to meet baby now!!! 1st time baby, it must be comfy in there :)
I'm not due til the 26th mar but i am being induced on the 12th mar as i have obstretic cholestasis. i was induced with my son as he was 5 days over and preclampsia. So won't know what its like to go into labor naturally after having two babies. Ah well at least i only gota week to wait til this little one is on the way. Fed up now and can't wait for it to all be over and have the baby in my arms. xx
was due on the 8th feb had contractions every 10 mins then stopped all of a sudden had sweep on 10th feb had mega pains and now have the rare contraction having to be induced on the 21st not looking forward to it but hey this is my 3rd child. 1st went well 2nd i had a crash section this one is just not playing ball at all. wonder what it might be!!!
i was due on the 8th feb this year and still no baby..i had my sweep on the 10th feb and still nothing my waters are bulging as well..i have never been over before and i was wondering what happens if u go over 41weeks and the sweep hasnt worked x
hi was due on the 10th of jan of this year but im 4 days late now i cant sleep scared to go out incase my waters breake , i dont want to be indunced but as the days drag on im getting scared as i know the baby is getting bigger every day im woundring will i have to have a c section as im only 5 foot and i was a big baby and so was my partner and my mum had to have 2 c sections on me and my brother i just hate the waiting game
I'm am due on in 2 days time and it's my first baby and don't want to be induced but wanted to can I be induced on my due date?
I'm pregnant with my second child and am 40 weeks + 3 days over due. I was in labour for 3 days with my first child and in the end had to have a c section. I've decided to try have baby naturally but going to hospital monday and midwife said they might do a sweep but sometimes they don't like to give you a sweep if you have had a c section so might have to have another c section so quite worried and nervous about it all.
Hi. I'm only 1 day overdue so far, but already had 2 sweeps. Neither which have worked as of yet! I have 2 more booked for Sat 4th and Tue 7th. This is my first pregnancy and I am frightened to death. Frightened of the unknown. I have been given the information pack, which has just made me even more anxious. My midwife has been great. But I just want to meet my little man, xx
I was induced with my first at 40+13 days, I had the prostaglandin gel and had it inserted at approx 11am and had my son at 10.24pm. It was my first experience of birth and although it did hurt I got through with entonox. My second birth went into labour naturally and I can remember this taking alot longer and although seemed more painful again I got through with entonox. I'm due to be induced for my 3rd next monday and have been told I have to have a membrane sweep on friday to start it off, which I'm not looking forward to. I've been very lucky to have both experiences and in a way the induction was better as I knew when it was all happening. To be honest they both resulted in beautiful healthy babies and we all know that labour will be painful anyway, but it's natural to stress out about what we don't know. Wishing everyone about to be induced all the best xx
hello, i am due on tuesday 19th october. i have been diagnosed with group B strep... does anyone know if they will induce me sooner than normal due to having this?
Hi, I'm 9 days overdue with my first. I thought I check out what other mums have written about it. I have to say, I wish I didn't... It's full of scary stories. I was already dreading labor but now I'm completely terrified. Is there anyone who has any positive or slightly less painful experience with induced labor?
My name is Debbie. I am 40 weeks plus 9 days overdue with our first child. I had a stretch and sweep at home at 41 weeks which did not bring on labour. I am due to be induced tomorrow at my local hospital as will be 10 days overdue. I am nervous but extremely excited about finally meeting our new arrival. When people say they dont want to be 'started off' as it leads to a painful delivery, I find it a little hard to read as if you have never gone into natural labour, how would you know the difference. You assume it is more harder than naturally going into labour but that it only your assumption - who is to say you wouldnt naturally be in labour for hours. I came onto this site for reassurance, not to be scared out of my wits end. So, to end, I'd say to anybody reading this, yes it sucks being over due, yes it sucks having to be induced, yes, I too am scared, but at least we have the added bonus of being in hospital when it all does start and that we have pain relief as an option immediately, whereas as anfwul lot of people have tp get to 6-7 cms dilated before they get to hospital and get pain releief, so there are plus and negative of both. Good luck to anybody having to be induced and I cannot wait to meet my new baby, by whatever means...
i am overdue with my 3rd baby and am so upset at becoming overdue. i was overdue with my 1st baby and i had to be induced i had a 34 hour labour and was moments away from a c- section when he finally made an apperance by ventouse! i have tried everything to bring on labour and nothing has happened i am heading more and more towards another induction and i am very scared all i rememeber is the trauma of the induction. no prefessional is bothered though all they say is each birth is different!