What to expect from a labor induction

If you are going to be induced, you might wonder what it will be like. I share my experience of three induced deliveries.

Lying in a hospital bed with monitor straps around my huge belly, I was a mess of fears and emotions. My second baby was ten days overdue and I was about to be induced.

Even though I knew I was in safe hands, I couldn’t help worrying about my baby and feeling scared of what the next few hours held.

All three of my births were induced  – and I trusted my doctors but I wasn’t prepared for how long I had to spend waiting around and how apprehensive I felt for much of that time. 

If you’re wondering what to expect when you’re induced – then this post is for you.  

Labour induction’s an overwhelming experience, especially if you’re unprepared for it and don’t know what to expect.

Note: I am not a medical professional and nothing on this site is medical advice.

My 3 labor inductions

In this post, I’m going to walk you through the labor induction process but first let’s take a look at how my induced labors went.

Baby 1: 8lb baby boy, 41 weeks +, 15 hour labour, epidural, forceps delivery

This was my first baby and I was overdue by 10 days so the doctor decided to start my labour with a pessary. I had to place it myself at home and wait for labour to start.

Things did not happen super fast. It took about 10 hours before I was sure labour was starting and about 6 more before it was worth going to hospital.

Once at the hospital, my contractions built up slowly – too slowly, so the doctor broke my waters. Then, the pain ramped up fast and I needed an epidural.

That really hadn’t been my plan at all but I was overwhelmed by the sudden intensifying of my contractions and couldn’t cope. It was my first baby, after all, and I hadn’t known what to expect.

After the epidural, I wasn’t able to be active any longer because my legs went completely numb and I couldn’t get out of bed.

I ended up having a forceps delivery because everything was taking so long and there was concern about my baby.

It just wasn’t at all the birth experience I had hoped for – I did get a beautiful baby boy out of it, though.

Baby 2: 10lb baby boy, 41 weeks +, 15 hour labour, morphine, vacuum delivery

My second son was a big baby who was not in any hurry to be born.

At ten days overdue, my labour was started using gel applied to the cervix.

The induction was started in the morning and I waited around in hospital all day with my partner while very little happened and he was sent home at around 10pm.

And my waters broke at midnight.

From then, it was another 15 hours until my baby was born and this time, the contractions took a long time to intensify.

In the end, I needed a Pitocin drip to move labour along.

Once I was progressing, I used the gas and air to take the edge off my pain but reached a point where I wasn’t able to handle it.

So I asked for a morphine injection because I was determined to skip the epidural this time around. (I might have been less determined had I known baby was 10.5 lb.)

I was much less active from then on because the morphine made me really sleepy – I was actually dozing off after each contraction and only waking up when the next hit.

My labour slowed right down and the doctor was called and decided we needed to get the baby out and used suction to deliver him.

Baby no. 3: 8lb baby girl, 41 weeks +, 12 hour labour, tens machine + gas

My daughter’s birth was easier than the other two but it took a lot to start my labour off.

I went to hospital seven days over my due date and the induction process was started in the evening with Prostin gel.

Like my previous gel induction experience, progress was slow.

24 hours later, I had progressed very little and my waters were broken to start labour but this time there was no sudden surge of intensity and I still needed a drip to get the contractions to progress.

Luckily, I coped better with the pain this time around and used a Tens machine for most of the labour and gas later on.

I had an amazing midwife who had a knack of making me comfortable and because I’d practised breathing for birth this time, I coped SO MUCH better with the intensifying contractions.

This meant that I was able to be active and upright through the whole of labour and push my baby out without any assistance.

I credit both my own better preparation and excellent, supportive midwife for helping me achieve the natural birth I’d always wanted.

Take aways from my induction birth stories

You can see from my stories that the births were all different but had some things in common.

It always took a long time for the inductions to work – even a whole day the third time. 

My first birth was the most classic induction story with the super fast onset of intense labour.

I remember feeling shocked and overwhelmed by how much worse the pain got after my waters were broken.

Your labor induction – what to expect when you are induced

This is serious medical intervention and you need to understand it and have confidence in your medical team.

The good news is that with the right information and medical staff that you trust, your labour induction will be a much more positive experience. It’s not going to be easy but at least you will know what to prepare for.

Let’s walk through the process, step by step.

It all starts with you and your birth partner heading to the hospital…

Arriving at hospital but not in labor

On the day of your induction, you’ll go to the hospital but you won’t be in labour when you arrive.

As long as your baby doesn’t decide to arrive ahead of schedule, you won’t have to make the panicked journey in full-on labour.

This is a bonus – especially if you live 25 miles from the hospital like I do.

You’ll know in advance where to go when you arrive and the staff will be expecting you.

Getting induced? Then you'll want to know what to expect. Tips and advice for pregnant mamas about what your labor induction will be like. #childbirtheducation #mumadvice #parentingideas #births #laboranddelivery

Monitoring of your baby

So you’ve arrived at the hospital and booked in with the nurses.

Now the nurse or midwife will check you over  (blood pressure, pulse etc) and hook you up to a monitor so they can get a trace of your baby’s heart rate and movements.

Go to the toilet first because you’re going to be there a while.

They’ll tell you how long – for me it was about twenty minutes – but that’s best case scenario.

If the trace works well right away and baby doesn’t move away from the sensors, then they’ll take the straps off after 20 minutes.

But hospitals are busy and if the person looking after you has to attend to someone else, you might be sat with the monitor on for much longer.

My hospital insisted on continuous monitoring of my baby from when I arrived in the labour suite to when my babies were born.

This is not unusual.

This is to ensure your baby’s safety but it restricts how much you can move around because you can only stay within the length of the monitor cables.

You may even have to wear the tummy straps to the toilet.

If keeping upright and mobile throughout the birthing process is important to you, talk to your midwife or nurse about how they can make that possible despite the monitor.

It can be done – for example, they might have a monitor on a trolley that you could move around with you.

I was still standing upright when my daughter was born despite being attached to a monitor the whole time.

Cervical examinations

Once  the staff are ready to start your induction, you’ll be offered a cervical examination to see what stage you are at.

They will want to do this before giving you any treatment to induce your labour so they can choose the best way to proceed.

The doctor, nurse or midwife will reach up your vagina and feel your cervix with their fingers.

If this is your first baby it will probably be a new experience and not a nice one so here are a few tips to make it easier.

A cervical exam is not a comfortable experience and you’ll need to work hard on breathing deeply and deliberately relaxing your body to make it little easier to cope with.

Tips to make cervical exams easier

The best advice I got was to make fists and put your hands under your bottom to lift you up slightly. It did seem to help a little.

Take deep breaths and imagine that you are breathing out with every part of you. If you can do that, you will be much more relaxed.

It’s tempting to tense up because it’s such a strange feeling but that makes it worse so focus on relaxing.

Once the examination is over, your doctor will decide what to do next to start your labour.

You will be examined at intervals throughout your labour to monitor your progress.

There are a few possible methods of inducing labour and you may need just one or several.

Possible treatments to induce your labour

Depending how you are progressing (so whether your cervix is beginning to soften and open and whether your waters have broken) you’ll be offered one or more of these treatments.

Methods vary from place to place so you will need to ask your doctor which they use.

labor induction

Gel induction – what to expect

This method starts labour by applying prostaglandin gel directly onto the cervix to encourage it to ripen ready for birth.

Prostaglandin gel – how long does it take to work?

Gel inductions can take a long time to start. It’s common to require several doses at intervals of around six hours before anything happens.

When I was induced with my latest baby, I had a course of three doses of prostaglandin gel, spending 24 hours in hospital, only to find that I had not made any progress.

I then had to go home for 24 hours before returning to try again.

Emotionally as well as physically, this took its toll. I was upset to have been away from my other children for so long, seemingly without any benefit.

The same thing happened to several other women over the days I spent in hospital so if you are having a gel induction, be prepared for it not to work the first time.

On the other hand, my gel induction with my second baby took off after only two doses and I saw several women who also reacted quickly so you could be lucky.

In some women, the gel doesn’t have the desired effect and further interventions are needed, such as a pitocin drip or manual breaking of the waters.

You should also know that the prostaglandin gel itself may make your vagina and surrounding area feel swollen and achy. If that happens, it can be hard to go to the toilet – even just to pee.

Pessary induction

Similar to a gel induction, a pessary induction works by inserting a pessary into the vagina and waiting while it acts on the cervix, causing it to begin to ripen.

The pessary will be inserted high up next to your cervix and some women find the process unpleasant.

A pessary induction also often takes hours to work – so long that when I had a pessary induction with my first baby, I was allowed to go home and wait there for labour to start.

The pessary was inserted in the morning and I realised my labour had started in a restaurant that evening.

Pitocin drip

A pitocin drip is a very common way of inducing labour. In some areas, this is the preferred method of inducing labour and is used immediately without gel or pessaries.

Where I live, the pitocin drip is more often used to augment labour once gel has taken effect.

I’m not a doctor so I can’t comment on why that is, but I suggest you check with your own doctor to find out if and how they use a pitocin drip to induce labour.

The pitocin is administered through a drip at intervals of a few hours. If your medical team feels you are not progressing quickly enough, they may increase your dose to try to intensify your contractions.

This is successful in a great many cases in helping to get you into established labour.

For some women, even the drip does not get them into established labour.

In that case, you may need a C-section if there is a risk to the baby of waiting.

For example, if your waters have broken but you are not contracting, a C-section would likely be recommended.

Breaking your waters manually or sweeping your membranes to induce labour

A membrane sweep or manual breaking of your waters are other common procedures for inducing labour. Either or both may be tried during your induction process to help move you along.

pregnant women awaiting induction

Tips and advice for pregnant women who may need a medical labour induction. What methods to expect (pitocin and prostin gel for example) when you are induced in hospital and advice for coping with the pain of induced labour. #induction #laborinduction #inducedlabour #births #mom #pregnancy #mumadvice #parenting

Next: a lot of waiting around for your labour to start

Your labor induction might not be super fast so bring food and things to do. I read a lot of novels and tried to rest and enjoy my last bit of peace and quiet for a long time.

How long does it take for induced labour to start?

Inducing labour is a waiting game. If you are being induced with prostaglandin gel, it may take several rounds to get your labour started.

During this time you wait around in the hospital, going for walks to try and get things started and getting more reading done than you have since leaving school.

If progress is slow by evening, your partner may have to go home and that’s pretty tough because if things happen in the night you will be alone until they return.

The whole waiting game is a lonely experience and if you are already emotional from all your pregnancy hormones you should probably pack a big box of tissues and a few novels. And snacks. Plenty of snacks.

How long does induced labour take?

Induced labour often progresses very quickly, with contractions coming thick and fast and a speedy but intense delivery.  For others, though, it is a slow and tedious progress.

In two out of three births, I had my waters broken artificially to speed up my labour. The first time, it worked and my labour moved along with the contractions becoming stronger and harder to cope with very quickly.

With my third child, my membranes were ruptured again but  I needed a drip to really start contracting well. You just don’t know exactly how you will respond to any particular treatment.

None of my labours lasted longer than 15 hours but getting into labour took much longer.

Next: contractions and established labour – or not

Your contractions may start soon after your first treatment – but they might not.

You may require several different approaches – gel + breaking of waters + pitocin drip, for example.

Or contractions may not start at all in which case you may need a C-section.

But let’s assume that with a treatment or treatments, you labour starts and progresses. Then what?

Does getting induced hurt more than spontaneous labour?

A lot of women find that induction of labour brings intense contractions very quickly.

With a natural labour, you often start with twinges that aren’t sure are even the real thing. Then the pain builds slowly over hours until it becomes intense.

Many women who have been induced describe labour pains that become intense and hard to cope with very quickly.

This happened to me with my first birth.

What should you do now to prepare for induction?

Talk to your medical team and keep learning – because this is just my experience. But you can

find our how 7 other moms experienced labor induction here >> 


Learn what to expect when you're having an induced labor.
what it's like when your labour is induced