• Search | Healthy Mom&Baby
AWHONN | Healthy Mom&Baby

Should You Wait For Labor?

By Catherine Ruhl, CNM, MS

Should You Wait For Labor?

Are you considering scheduling your baby’s birth? You have friends who have asked for inductions to help with busy family schedules, but you’ve also heard that they can lead to increased complications and even cesarean birth.

Fact is, when all is going well, waiting for labor to start by itself has definite advantages for you and your baby.
Babies develop on their own timetables, learning to roll over, stand, walk and talk when they’re ready. Similarly, your baby has her own pregnancy timetable. Experts believe labor starts on its own in large part because baby signals your body that she’s ready to be born.

Preparing for Labor

It may feel like not much is happening during those last weeks before labor, but your body and your baby are both busy preparing for birth. The opening of your uterus (cervix) is softening and thinning and baby’s head is dropping. Your uterine muscle fibers are primed to respond to the hormone oxytocin, which your body will naturally release to start labor. High levels of this same hormone promote effective contractions, and help you bond with baby at birth and as you begin breastfeeding.
Labors that start on their own also tend to go more quickly and result in a natural birth. The synthetic form of oxytocin, called Pitocin, doesn’t quite yield the same results when used to induce labor.
Induced labors tend to take longer and be more painful. They more often result in a cesarean, which is major abdominal surgery with a longer hospital stay and recovery time. After cesarean, you may be separated from your baby at birth, which can make starting breastfeeding more difficult.

Baby is Busy, Too

During this time, baby is also hard at work, growing and maturing, and storing a unique fat that will help her keep warm in the first weeks of life. During weeks 36 to 41 (your estimated due date is when you finish 40 weeks), you transfer large amounts of infection-fighting antibodies to baby across the placenta. This immuno-boost helps baby fight off colds, flu and diarrhea at birth and beyond.
Babies have immature immune systems so it makes sense to give them as much womb time as possible before birth. It’s important to not rush labor even by a week or two with induction unless there’s a medical reason.
Babies who are born after labor starts on its own have fewer breathing problems and are ready for breastfeeding at birth. They also have brains, lungs and other organs more ready for life outside the womb.
Go The Full 40
Consider waiting for labor, if all is healthy with your pregnancy, until your body and your baby are ready. Then you can both enter labor at the top of your game. Nurses have 40 reasons and more why you should wait for labor to start on its own at GoTheFull40.com. You can also sign the pledge to support women in waiting for labor to start on its own at awhonn.org/full40pledge

Catherine Ruhl, CNM, MS, is Director of Women’s Health for AWHONN.

Ask Nurses | Healthy Mom&Baby

Have a question for our nurses? Get an expert opinion by submitting your question

Submit YOur Question Now