How Do Doctors Induce Labor?

Ever wondered what really happens during the common delivery technique of 'breaking the water'? Here are some of the ways a doctor might induce labor.
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If your doctor decides that inducing labor is the best option for you and Baby, there are a few different ways to go about it. Here are the most common ways to induce labor.

Stripping the Membranes

“Stripping the membranes” is basically a more intense version of a pelvic exam. It involves feeling around your cervix to separate the membranes that connect the amniotic sac to the wall of the uterus. This causes your body to release prostaglandins, the hormone-like substances that may help get labor started.

Rupturing the Membranes

If your cervix has already begun dilating, your doctor may rupture your membrane – or break your water – by making a hole in the amniotic membrane that surrounds the baby. With a sterile glove on one hand, doctors put some lubricant on their index and middle fingers, then reach into the vagina to find the inside edges of the cervix. They will then use their other hand to slide an amnio-hook into the cervix. It looks just like a long, flat crochet hook; it's not sharp and won't hurt you or the baby. Once the hook is in there, it's just a matter of snagging a hole. Towels and waterproof pads under Mom's butt will catch the flood. Doctors check the color of the fluid to make sure it's clear of meconium (baby poop) or blood and the quick procedure is done.

Prostaglandin Suppositories or Pills

Small pills called Misoprostol are placed in the vagina every few hours; suppositories called Cervidil are inserted into the vagina every 12 hours. Both types of medication release prostaglandins to help get your cervix ready for labor.

Foley Bulb

This is a small balloon that's inserted into your cervix and then inflated, forcing it to begin opening (similar to doing an angioplasty to clear clogged arteries).


If your cervix is dilated, but contractions just haven't begun, your doctor will likely try Pictotin. This drug mimics the hormone oxytocin, which signals your uterus to begin contracting. It can be used to get labor started or rev up sluggish contractions.


Remember that going just a few days past your due date doesn't necessarily mean you'll be induced. The waiting game can be frustrating, but try to relax and take advantage of the down time – you'll certainly be busy enough after the baby arrives! And trust that you will not be pregnant forever. In fact, most doctors won't allow you to go more than two weeks past your due date, because the placenta can start to age and deteriorate, compromising baby's blood and oxygen supply.


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