Hearing that your labor needs to be induced can seem as if your birth plan and everything you imagined about meeting your little one has evaporated in an instant.
However, this simply isn’t true. With forward planning and a healthy attitude, many aspects of your birth plan can still go ahead.
A few good ways to prepare for labor induction are to ask as many questions as you can about the procedure in addition to packing a hospital bag, enlisting help with childcare/home duties, eating light, and packing comfort items to keep you distracted during what can be a long process.
Inducing labor means asking a lot of your body (and of yourself), but you can still ensure this stressful experience doesn’t overwhelm you. In fact, you can make it a positive one by taking back some form of control.
We’ll look at ways you can feel better prepared before the big day as well as how long induction typically takes, how your cervix is prepared, and more.
How To Prepare for Labor Induction – Dos and Don’ts
Not going into labor naturally and being beyond your expected due date can undoubtedly be a source of stress, but going into it all with realistic expectations and a fair amount of preparation can ensure you won’t be adding unnecessarily to this stress.
Let’s look at what you can try to do (or not do) to make your labor induction as positive an experience as possible.
1. Do Get Answers to All Your Questions
Don’t hold back in finding out all you can and want to know about the induction process.
Speak to your healthcare provider at the earliest opportunity about all your concerns both small and mighty from home-birthing and pain-relief options to the full reasoning behind why you need inducing.
Keep notes with you, or make a list on your phone whenever questions arise.
2. Do Finalize Arrangements at Work
A 2017 study by the University of Memphis revealed that women who concealed their pregnancies at work experienced greater anxiety and stress, and the same will be true for leaving it late to air your concerns and discuss plans for your labor induction.
As soon as you are comfortable doing so, consult your manager about your proposed plan, expected best/worst case scenarios regarding maternity leave, etc.
The sooner your employer and colleagues are in the know, the longer you will have a much-needed extra arm of support as the time draws near.
3. Do Notify Your Support Network
Speaking of your support network, go ahead and make a long list of things that need doing in your absence (a guilt-free zone please — that’s what good friends and loved ones are there for!).
It’s a nice feeling to know that household chores, childcare, watching your pets, watering your plants, etc. will be taken care of.
4. Do Get Everything Ready for the Baby
Prepare everything you comfortably can for the baby’s arrival. This could be assembling their crib, decorating their nursery, or ordering everything you need for their arrival (preferably with the help of your partner or close family member).
These crucial aspects of nesting help to “offer a sense of control during a period often filled with anxiety and uncertainty about the oncoming changes,” notes Robin. B. Kalish, MD, a Cornell specialist in high-risk pregnancies.
5. Do Stock Up on Groceries & Household Supplies
Try to get the pantry prepared for the baby and the household in general. It can help to cook in bulk and freeze a few meals if you can so you’re well stocked for later.
Make a note of any personal care items you need to stock up on too (again, a loved one can help with most of this).
6. Do Be Sure Your Hospital Bag Is Ready
The sight of a packed and prepared hospital bag waiting for you will be a huge weight off your mind as this is often the one thing frayed, distressed partners are scrambling for out the door to the cab ride!
Homeschooling mama Rebecca Jacobs of the Baby Chick blog has your labor induction bag checklist covered right here.
7. Do Make Note of What You’re Feeling
There’s a reason journaling has become a phenomenon in recent years — it’s a huge de-stressor.
Writing about your experience, your expectations, and how you’re feeling in the run-up to your induction will not only serve you therapeutically, but it can be a wonderful thing to share with your child one day too.
8. Do Go Over Your Birth Plan
Inducing labor doesn’t mean foregoing all aspects of your birth plan.
Not every method of induction will work the same way for every case, and your midwife team will always balance the health and well-being of the baby against your choices, but if something like not using pain medication was important to you then you will not be forced to.
9. Do Keep Your Expectations Reasonable
Labor and delivery nurse with 20 years plus experience Hilary Erickson, BSN, shares this tip:
“A hospital is not like a hotel. While you have a scheduled labor induction, keep in mind that the hospital can’t always accept you at that time. A phone call the night before can help you understand the likelihood of being “bumped” for a case of spontaneous labor or someone with more urgent needs.”
10. Do Take Pictures of Yourself
Get a partner or loved one to document your experience at home and in the hospital to share with your baby later.
It can also help to take photos of your belly from day to day to share with your health practitioner in the lead-up to your induction date, as they can get a sense of how you are progressing.
11. Do Enjoy Some Me Time
You’ll go through waves of needing your partner or birthing companion by your side and needing them to politely disappear for a little while!
Induction can be a lengthy and unpredictable process, so make sure they have their own snacks, pillow, and entertainment to give you some alone time.
Also, be sure to enjoy some quality alone time before the scheduled induction as personal time will definitely be a distant memory once the baby arrives.
12. Do Get a Good Night’s Sleep
Some decent sleep on the nights before your scheduled labor induction can make the world of difference to your stress levels, nausea, and mental clarity.
Veteran nurse Hilary Erickson recommends the following to encourage a good slumber:
- Long walks in the evening
- A warm bath with essential oils
- Prenatal massage
- Meditation recordings
- A Benedryl to calm a hectic mind (always ask your healthcare provider first)
13. Do Eat a Healthy, Light Meal
Eat a light, sensible meal that you enjoy. Something healthy like scrambled eggs, protein oats, or banana and apples with nut butter are good choices.
Some women look to spicy foods as this has been incorrectly linked to inducing labor — what it will do is cause heartburn and irritate your gut.
14. Do Try To Empty Your Bowels
If you can, try to visit the toilet before your scheduled induction. If you don’t manage to poop until later, however, don’t worry.
Pooping during labor is perfectly normal, and according to the experts, it can actually be beneficial: “it may help babies develop their microbiomes (newborns aren’t born with any), helping their digestion and ability to fight off colds.”
15. Don’t Forget To Pack Some Entertainment & Comfort Items
If things are taking longer than expected, the worst thing you can do is sit and ponder about everything that could go wrong.
Make sure you have some comforting distractions at hand. Pack a good book, your favorite magazine, or your crochet supplies, or bring your laptop/tablet along to relax with some of your favorite shows back to back.
16. Don’t Try To Jumpstart the Process
The waiting and discomfort can prompt you to try labor-inducing methods yourself at home, but this isn’t advisable, particularly without your doctor and midwife’s knowledge or green light.
There are many natural and seemingly safe ways to induce labor from sex to eating dates, but don’t attempt these without speaking to your healthcare provider.
17. Don’t Eat a Heavy Meal
Heavy food choices like fried, fatty meals are not recommended prior to your labor induction. In this article for Live Strong, long-time nurse and midwife Marcy Reed points out that:
“Many laboring women experience nausea and vomiting in the transition of labor, so these foods should definitely be avoided.”
18. Don’t Ignore Any Instructions From Your Doctor
Like you, your doctor wants the best outcome for you and the baby.
They’re also likely to have performed this procedure dozens of times, so it would be very unwise to go rogue at this juncture and ignore any of their professional medical instruction and advice.
19. Don’t Hesitate To Go to the Hospital if Labor Begins
It won’t matter that you are days away from your scheduled induction appointment. If you go into labor, that’s great!
Make sure you get yourself to the hospital as soon as possible, and knowing your medical history/previous request for induced labor, the hospital will take things from there.
20. Don’t Forget To Bring a Carseat
You’ll need the baby’s car seat fitted and ready for lift-off, so reading through the manual and fitting it safely and in the correct position can be one more thing for you to tick off your mental to-do list.
21. Don’t Feel Bad That It’s All About You – It Should Be!
Don’t be shy about making requests that will bring you more comfort and less stress. Whether it is natural or induced, you’re still experiencing labor, and your wishes should be respected.
Ask your doctor or midwife to close the curtains, dim the lights, let you play soothing music, let you rock on your birth ball, and do whatever else it takes to help you feel more at ease.
Also ask yourself if there are little comforting things your birthing partner could be doing for you such as gentle massage, hip squeezes, or relaxing breathing techniques.
How To Prepare Cervix for Induction
In the lead-up to your induction, things like walks, sex, and sitting on your birthing ball are anecdotally believed to help your cervix prepare.
If these methods are unsuccessful, your doctor or midwife will then prepare your cervix for induction by administering one or a combination of certain medicines and methods to help stimulate contractions and encourage the opening of your cervix.
- Pitocin – This is a synthetic form of oxytocin, the hormone that speeds up labor, delivered through an IV in your arm.
- Amniotomy – This involves artificially “breaking your waters” by making a small hole in your amniotic sac to strengthen uterine contractions.
- Membrane sweep – Your midwife will use a gloved finger to separate the amniotic sac tissue from the uterine wall.
- Cervical ripening – A prostaglandin medication will either be taken orally or inserted into the vagina to help soften and expand the cervix.
How To Make Labor Induction Easier
As well as understanding all you can about the process and being prepared, the best way to make labor induction easy for you is to fall back on your comports and support.
As well as ensuring your birthing partner is as clued up as you on everything, some women consider hiring a doula, a professional assistant who can provide physical and emotional support throughout the birthing process.
How Long Does Induction Take for First-Time Moms?
Labor induction may take anywhere between 12 and 48 hours for first-time mothers or up to 24 hours for women who have given birth previously.
If the first phase of labor induction methods is unsuccessful, moms-to-be are usually asked to rest for a further 24 hours before trying again.
Being induced for the first time can be a lengthy and nerve-wracking process, particularly when you don’t have a clue what to expect from it all.
It’s important for your well-being to know as much as you can ahead of time and have as much prepared beforehand too!
Remember, you’re never alone in all this — try to find friends, colleagues, and family members who experienced a labor induction, and lean on your birthing partner, loved ones, and healthcare providers for support and guidance whenever you need it.
Rebecca is a seasoned copywriter and researcher with over a decade of experience, specializing in parenting topics. With a passion for all aspects of raising children, from breastfeeding to potty training.