Induction of Labor


  • Misoprostol and oxytocin (pitocin) and a foley balloon can be used to start labor.
  • Misoprostol and pitocin are medicines that cause contractions. However, sometimes they make contractions too strong.
  • Your baby may have a hard time with strong contractions. Your provider can change your medicine should you or your baby have a problem.
  • A foley balloon can help get your cervix ready for labor by opening it more.

Cervical Ripening

Cervical ripening is when the cervix gets ready for labor. The cervix becomes thinner, softer, and starts to open. Cervical ripening can happen naturally or be done with medication (misoprostol) or with a cervical balloon.

If you would like to get your cervix ready for labor at home you can have an appointment at the hospital to receive either medication (misoprostol) or a cervical balloon to get you ready for your induction.

What are the benefits of having cervical ripening and going home?

  • Women who have cervical ripening and go home spend less time in the hospital before their baby is born. You can rest, eat, and drink at your home.

Is a cervical balloon safe?

  • Yes. In studies comparing people who stayed in the hospital with their cervical balloon with women who went home with it, there was no difference in the number of people who had complications.

What should I do on the day of my appointment for cervical ripening?

  • Pack your hospital bag and have a good meal. Sometimes we may recommend that you stay at the hospital instead of going home. This can happen if your baby shows any signs of stress, if the fluid around your baby is too low, or if you are in labor
  • Arrive at Boston Medical Center at 8:00AM and go to the Women and Infants Center on the 4th floor of the Yawkey Building, 850 Harrison Ave

What will happen at my appointment for cervical ripening?

  • We will check your baby’s heartbeat
  • We will check to see if you are having contractions
  • We will do a vaginal exam to check how dilated (open) your cervix is
  •  We will help you decide what will help the most to ripen your cervix

What if I get medicine?

  • We will monitor the baby’s heartbeat for an hour afterwards
  • You may have some cramping or feel nothing different  You may notice some vaginal discharge with mucus or blood that may have a pink, brown, or red color (bloody show).

What if I get a cervical balloon?

  • You may feel some discomfort and cramping while the balloon is being placed and for a few minutes after.
  • You may also notice some mucus with blood from the vagina that may have a pink, brown, or red color (bloody show).
  • You may have contractions or feel pressure in the vagina while the balloon is in place.

What do I do after I have had cervical ripening?

  • You can go home and rest, walk, spend time with friends or family
  • Eat well and drink alot of water
  • Plan to return to the hospital at 8pm for your appointment
  • If the balloon falls out you can throw it away and still come for your 8pm appointment

You should come back to the hospital before your appointment if any of these 5 signs:

  1. You think your water broke
  2. If you start having contractions every 3-4 minutes that are very strong for 2 hours
  3. If you have vaginal bleeding like a period
  4. If you have a fever (temperature higher than 100.4)
  5. If you feel like your baby is not moving

If you need to talk to a provider about your appointment call 617-414-4364


Induction of labor Q&A

What does it mean to have my labor induced?

  • Having your labor induced means starting your labor at the hospital with different medicines or treatments. 

How long will it take if my labor needs to be induced? 

  • Starting your labor takes times! most babies are not born the same day you go to the hospital. it can take 1-3 days for the baby to be born. 

How will my labor be induced? 

  • There are medicines and treatments that help get the cervix (the opening of the uterus) ready for labor, and other medicines that will start contractions. 
  • You will have an exam when you arrive at the hospital to see if your cervix is open (dilated). You and the team will decide what the best way to start your labor is after your exam. 

What can I expect when my labor is induced? 

  • You may have to wait to eat. 
  • You can drink water, juice, broth, or popsicles. 
  • Sometimes you can walk, shower, change positions, sleep, and go to the bathroom by yourself. 
  • You may have a monitor and belts on your belly to listen to the baby's heartbeat the whole time or some of the time. 

What will be used to start my labor? 

  • Membrane sweeping can help the cervix get ready for labor. This is an exam done with a finger inside the cervix if it is open (dilated) to help separate the membranes (bag of water) from the cervix. 
  • Misoprostol is a pill that helps the cervix get ready for labor. The pill can be swallowed or put inside the vagina. Sometimes misoprostol can cause contractions. 
  • A cervical balloon is a tube with a balloon that is placed inside the cervix to help slowly open the cervix (dilate). It is put in for up to 12 hours to help get the cervix ready for labor. 
  • Oxytocin (Pitocin) is a medicine that can be given in an IV that starts your labor and starts contractions. 
  • Amniotomy means breaking the water, it is sometimes done to help your labor start or progress. We use something that looks like a crochet hook to break the water.