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Induction of Labour

Most women go into labour naturally (midwives call this spontaneous labour) between 37 and 42 weeks of pregnancy. If you haven’t given birth to your baby a week past your due date we will offer you induction of labour (IOL).

If mother and baby are otherwise well, induction takes place from 7 days past your due date. This is because the risk to the baby increases very slightly the longer that the pregnancy continues, although it is important to remember that the risk of problems remains very small.

  • Women with low-risk pregnancies are offered IOL from 41 weeks
  • Women with IVF pregnancies are offered IOL at 40 weeks
  • Women with BMI 40 or more are offered IOL at 40 weeks
  • Women over 40 years are offered IOL at 38 weeks
  • If your waters break pre-term or you have certain medical or pregnancy conditions you may be offered IOL sooner

Stretch & Sweep: You will be offered a ‘stretch and sweep’ first which is a gentle (but sometimes uncomfortable) procedure performed during a vaginal internal examination. Having a stretch and sweep makes spontaneous labour more likely and reduces the need for formal induction. You can choose not to have to have a stretch and sweep before arranging induction of labour.

If you choose to accept the offer of induction your midwife will arrange the date of your hospital admission and provide you with information in writing.

To find out more about induction, the choices available, what to expect, and lots more, visit  (links to an external website)

However, you may still prefer to wait and let labour start naturally.

Alternative choices: If you make an informed decision not to have your labour induced, there are other options to consider. When your pregnancy continues 14 days past your due date we will suggest a scan to check that the placenta is still working well. We will then see you every couple of days to make sure that you and your baby are remaining well. You can change your mind at any time and opt for induction, or decline after a thorough discussion with a senior obstetrician.

Did you know?

  • You should monitor your baby’s movements carefully after your estimated due date and contact Maternity Assessment Centre if you notice any changes. For example, if the movements feel very different or if baby is moving less than usual
  • Induction of labour is a fairly common procedure. Every year, 1 in 5 labours are induced in the UK for a variety of reasons.
  • A ‘stretch and sweep’ is a low risk procedure that can start labour off without further intervention and labour can then take place at home, in a birth centre or on labour ward.
  • If your pregnancy has progressed normally you are at low risk of any complications as a result of being induced. It may be possible for you to go home once the induction process has started to await events in the comfort of your own home.
  • Induction of labour is a process that can take 24-48 hours, to get labour started. It is very unlikely that the baby will be born on the day of admission, especially if this is your first baby.
  • Once your pregnancy has continued past 42 weeks gestation guidance recommends that birth takes place on labour ward.

Induction is offered to all women who reach 42 weeks of pregnancy because research shows there is a slightly higher risk of stillbirth or problems for baby in pregnancies that are over 42 weeks.

Find out more about longer pregnancy by reading Choices when pregnancy reaches 41 weeks  (links to a PDF document)