There are several medical reasons to induce labor early, but some moms are making the personal decision to schedule an elective labor induction and choose their baby's birth date. 

By Jenna Autuori Dedic
December 28, 2018
Jenna Autuori labor
Credit: Jenna Autuori Dedic

I've always envied moms who knew they were going to need a Cesarean section before they entered the delivery room. I know we're talking major surgery here—recovery is rough, and I understand that a lot of C-section mommas would have preferred to labor through vaginal birth if they could have. But hear me out for one minute here, C-section mamas. To me, knowing when your little bundle of joy would be coming into this world and being able to plan around it just seems so... civilized.

When I had my first baby, I was a part of the one to two percent of women who go into labor on their actual due date. Even though I knew the baby could arrive early or late, I was prepared to give birth on my due date and never had to experience the stress of wondering when labor would start. When I was pregnant with my second child, I didn't expect to be so lucky and it made me anxious. It's not like moms-to-be can prepare for their water to break on the train during their morning commute to work, or to deliver in the car on the side of the road. And this time I already had a kid at home, a busy family routine, and a husband with a hectic work schedule. I knew I needed to find a safe way to schedule my delivery, so I called my doctor. 

I learned that a recent landmark study by the National Institute of Health stated that an elective induction at 39 weeks of pregnancy could not only make delivery less risky but also be optimal for mom and baby's health. I jumped at the chance to welcome my little man to the world a week early, under my terms and within my control.

Scheduling An Elective Labor Induction

My doctor, Francesco Callipari, M.D., an Ob-Gyn at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, said that my baby's weight is the most important factor when considering induction. "If we are able to estimate a large baby, then it is a good idea to discuss case-by-case the possibility of induction at the correct gestational age, which is 39 weeks," he says. "The induction happens during the 39th week because fetal lung maturity has been met and the baby is a little smaller than its due date weight." Data suggests that inducing at 40 to 41 weeks or beyond is not as ideal.

All labors come with risk, and elective inductions can result in a prolonged labor as the woman's cervix dilates fully, sometimes (like in any spontaneous labor) this can result in a C-section if the process does stall. But research says that inducing at this optimal time can actually reduce the likeliness that a C-section will be necessary. 

Since my baby was going to be measuring about eight-pounds for his big day, I decided to schedule an induction at exactly 39-weeks. I was planning his birth to make my life a little easier, but I didn't feel bad about this. Life as a mom is hard enough as is, why add to the daily stresses if I didn't have to? I spent the day before my induction with my daughter, got my pedicure, went on a dinner date with my husband, and then checked myself into the hospital. And so just like that, a couple hours later my little man, Hunter Zlatan, was born on August 14, 2018, exactly as planned.

Moms induce for all kinds of reasons and most times they enjoy the process as much as I did. Just like moms who choose formula or breastmilk, to go back to work or to stay home, or to get induced instead of playing the waiting game, we're all just trying to do our best.

Here's what other moms who chose elective inductions had to say about their experiences.

Credit: Amanda O'Neill

"I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm Type A. I don't do surprises and I don't like the unknown. And due to a bad experience as a kid, I have a fear of hospitals. All of this makes preparing for spontaneous labor very overwhelming. Just talking to my doctor about my plan if I went into labor early made my blood pressure rise.

My doctor noticed how stressed I was, so we decided that if the baby and I were healthy and everything was going according to plan, I could induce early on a scheduled date. As I got closer to my due date, my baby was measuring on the bigger side—above eight pounds—so my doctor felt comfortable letting me set an appointment to induce labor to keep my blood pressure down.

My delivery day went very smoothly. Within 24-hours I checked into the hospital and was holding my baby in my arms. When it came time for me to have my second baby, I knew there was no other way to do it. This time since it was going to be my second vaginal delivery, the baby came a few hours after inducing. It was all so quick! I have nothing to compare my deliveries to other than inductions, but from talking to friends I get the sense I had it much easier.

I definitely feel I get some raised eyebrows when people hear I chose to induce. I try to talk about it as much as I can to make sure people understand that women who induce aren't putting their child's life at risk just for convenience. The more we talk about it the more people will realize it's similar to planning any other kind of medical procedure. Because I knew when I would deliver, my husband and I were able to figure out what to do with my oldest child and my husband could take off work around the due date.  I'd do it all over again the same way but two babies is good enough for me!"

Amanda O'Neill, 42, Larchmont, NY

Credit: Danielle Seligsohn

"I had a really difficult labor with my first baby. My water actually broke three weeks early at 37.5 weeks so I was completely unprepared. Then during the delivery, I lost the energy and strength to push my son out all the way. At that point, it was too late for a  C-section so my doctor told me it was medically necessary to remove my baby using forceps. I was terrified about what was going on but had to trust my doctor that all would turn out OK. Thankfully when my son was born he only had some red marks on his face that lasted a few days, but he was completely perfect.

I always carried around such guilt that I was inadequate with pushing and I could have caused him harm. I knew I wanted to avoid that fear with my second baby. Because I'm petite my doctor said my hips are too narrow and wanted to avoid any delivery complications. We decided it would be better for my daughter to be induced and born a week early at a smaller weight. At 39 weeks my daughter was born—she basically flew right out! It was so much less stressful and chaotic in the delivery room. I just remember feeling so calm about the delivery – my parents were home taking care of our toddler, everything was in place for the arrival of another baby, and my daughter would be born into a less stressful environment.

Elective inductions get a bad rap with stories about busy moms planning their baby's birth around work obligations or social events, but there's real reason to choose when your baby will be born. I'm glad we have the medical research behind elective inductions that finally validates how so many moms feel. I loved it so much, I had a third baby who was supposed to come via induction as well but I began having contractions the day before. I'm all for elective inductions if they work for you and keep you sane during such a hectic time.

- Danielle Seligsohn, 34, Englewood, New Jersey

"There was a big hurricane on the way that was expected to coincide with my due date. Since I was 38 weeks already, my doctor was concerned that I could be pushed into labor during the storm by the change in the barometric pressure. She made me think that inducing would create a more controlled and safer environment, instead of possibly going into labor at home and risking our safety trying to make it to a hospital.

It was my first baby and I had no idea what to expect—looking back I feel I was a little naïve to the situation. While my daughter was born perfectly fine and the vaginal delivery seemed as normal as possible, I'm not sure my body felt ready to 'let go' of the baby. I don't actually think I was done being pregnant either mentally or physically—once I gave birth I felt like I lost a part of myself. I don't think I was myself for a couple months after my daughter was born. I felt like I cheated my unborn child the opportunity to have a full term development inside the womb.

I was never diagnosed with postpartum depression, but I know I had a lot of the symptoms. And even though no one can say for me that was scientifically caused by being induced, in my heart I do believe it caused my feelings of guilt. I had never heard of elective inductions before this and maybe if I had and women talked about the options they were faced with I wouldn't have been so hard on myself about how my baby was born. My second child was induced as well, but I was diagnosed with preeclampsia so it was medically necessary to deliver early. At the end of the day I'll never know what it's like to go into labor naturally but my babies—now 10 and 4 years old—are happy and healthy so that's all that matters."

Jess Grimm, 37, Cortlandt Manor, NY