Elective Labor Induction

What is elective labor induction?

Sometimes, when a woman is nearing the end of her pregnancy, she may have her labor started (induced) rather than waiting for labor to begin on its own. This is called a labor induction. When your healthcare provider recommends a labor induction for your health or for the health of your baby, it is called an indicated labor induction. When labor is induced for a non-medical reason, for matters of convenience or preference, it is called an elective labor induction.

When is elective labor induction appropriate?

Electing to have your healthcare provider induce labor may appeal to you. However, elective labor induction is not always best for your baby. Inducing labor before you have completed 39 weeks of your pregnancy (one week away from your due date)- or before your cervix is ready-has risks. Your healthcare provider will follow the guidelines described here to help determine if and when elective labor induction is okay for you and your baby.

Expert Guidelines

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) is a professional organization for doctors who deliver babies. The following guidelines are based on advice from this organization. Your healthcare provider uses these guidelines to make a safe decision about whether or not an elective induction is right for you and your baby. If you do not meet these guidelines, your healthcare provider may recommend letting labor take its natural course. Before inducing labor:

  • Your healthcare provider must discuss with you if you have previously had a Cesarean delivery (C-section) or major surgery on your uterus to agree on the method of delivery.
  • Your healthcare provider must be certain of your due date to prevent starting labor too early, before your baby is fully developed.
  • You must be at least 39 weeks along in your pregnancy.
  • Your cervix must be soft and ready to open (dilate). Your provider can tell this by examining your cervix to determine a Bishop Score, which is the standard measure for assessing the cervix's readiness for labor. A Bishop Score of at least 10 for first-time moms (8 for others), is a common point of readiness. With this score, the likelihood of having a vaginal delivery after induction is similar to that of spontaneous labor.

For more information on elective labor induction, please talk with your OB provider and read through our Elective Labor Induction Brochure.