Posted by: babybumper | April 12, 2011

Flood Gates- does breaking water induce labor?

Frequently the water is broken with hopes to signal to the woman’s body to start labor.

The Cochrane Collaboration, who strives to recommend the best care based on the best evidence, supports the use of breaking water plus Pitocin to induce labor, when medically necessary.

Medical indications for induction:

  • 41+ week pregnancy
  • pregnancy-caused high blood pressure
  • infection in the uterus
  • growth restriction for baby
  • maternal health problems like uncontrollable diabetes.

During a medical induction, it is hoped that breaking the water will signal to the body to begin labor. However, once those flood gates are opened, there is no going back! You are fully committed to deliver, even if that means via Cesarean Surgery.

Alternatively, if Pitocin alone (or another drug) is used to induce labor, there is no commitment to delivery. Consider 2 scenarios I have seen play out in Labor and Delivery:

When you went to the OB today, she measured your belly and asked for an ultrasound. Just in the last month your baby fell off the growth curve. With the diagnosis of Growth Restriction, your OB explains although you are early, in this situation it is better for the baby to be out than in. Continuing with the pregnancy will result in further stunted growth. Worried, you head to the hospital to start your induction.

Option #1:
After finding you dilated 1-2 cm, the nurse starts you on Pitocin, and keeps turning up the dose for a few hours. Your OB comes in and checks your cervix, no change. She tells you she wants to break your water, to hopefully get things kicking. You agree. 12 hours later, you have a temp, and you are only 3 cm dilated. Your OB comes in and explained the induction just didn’t work. We need to get the baby out. We don’t want you to get infected. You consent to a Cesarean Section.

Or Option #2:
After finding you dilated 1-2 cm, the nurse starts you on Pitocin, and keeps turning up the dose for a few hours. Your OB comes in and checks your cervix, No change. She tells you she wants to break your water, to hopefully get things kicking. You decline. You ask her, If the induction fails today, can we turn the Pitocin off and try again tomorrow? She agrees. You have no progress, and the Pitocin is turned off, and you sleep through the night. In the morning you try again with the Pitocin.


This is just an example of how having your water broken commits you to delivery. Sometimes during a medical induction delivery can’t wait another day, and sometimes it can. It is at least something to discuss with your healthcare provider. Together you must weigh the pros and cons of opening those flood gates.

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