Inducing birth involves using techniques to artificially start the birth process. Usually this is in the form of drugs given in increasing doses to mimic the natural contractions of labor, although induced contractions can be more painful and prolonged than natural labor. Birth can occur anywhere from a few hours to several days after induction begins, de­pending on a woman’s prior birth history. Over the last few years, there has been a tremen­dous increase in childbirth induction. In fact, labor induction is one of the fastest growing medical procedures in the United States (MacDorman et al., 2002). In 1998, induction was used in 19% of all U. S. births, which was more than twice the number from 1989.

A woman may need to have her pregnancy induced for several medical reasons, in­cluding being 1 or more weeks past her due date or to avoid having a cesarean section because the baby is growing too large. Induction may also be performed when a woman’s labor is not progressing (i. e., her amniotic fluids have broken, but her contractions have stopped). Some women elect to have an induction prior to their due date for nonmed­ical reasons, including anything from wanting to avoid birth on a certain day (such as Halloween) or to accommodate a woman or her partner’s work schedule. Most hospitals require a woman to be at least 39 weeks pregnant before induction is an option. Non­Hispanic white, college-educated, U. S.-born women have the highest rates of labor in­duction (MacDorman et al., 2002).