Induction of labour 

What is an induction of labour?

For some women we will need to discuss starting labour artificially. This can be due to concerns regarding your health, the health of your baby or perhaps you are reaching 42 weeks and an induction may be suggested for post dates.


A Membrane sweep

Drugs to trigger labour

There are a number of ways labour can be started, if you are admitted to the maternity ward in Ninewells the midwives in the ward will explain the procedure to you and give you time to ask any questions you have. Then they will check you and your baby over ensuring you are in good health before the induction begins. Then with your consent they will use drugs called prostaglandins to bring on labour. These act like natural hormones and are put into your vagina as a pessary. After this you and your baby will receive regular check until labour suite are ready to look after you. At this point we check that the prostaglandins have softened your cervix  enough to break your waters. Sometimes they can start labour without further interventions. This can take 2-3 days so make sure you have some good entertainment with you!

Triggering labour with a balloon catheter

If you are offered out-patient induction you may be offered a cervical balloon catheter  which is a drug free method of softening and opening your cervix. It is gently placed through your cervix and sits between the cervix and your baby’s head without breaking your waters. It helps trigger labour by applying pressure on the inside of the cervix and by increasing the release of your own natural hormones, prostaglandins.

Breaking your waters

A third was of starting labour is to move to the step where we break your waters, missing the first steps if your cervix is open and soft. You’ll have a vaginal examination to see if your cervix has dilated enough to have your waters broken with a sterile plastic hook.

Hormone helps contractions

Once your waters are broken we will usually wait 1-2 hours to assist you to mobilize and establish labour if both you and your baby remain in good health. After a few hours a hormone drip may be started to help increase the strength and frequency of your contractions . To do this we will put a small needle in your arm to administer the hormone drip called oxytocin.

This hormone is started at a very slow rate and increased slowly until you are having regular contractions. It will need to be continued throughout your labour to keep the contractions going. If the drip is stopped, the contractions usually slow down, or stop too.


At all times you will be cared for by midwives and medical staff ensuring you are kept informed and have the chance to ask any questions about the process at any stage.


Please see the short film below by one of our midwives discussing the process.