Induced labour is the term used when a woman's labour starts artificially by means of medical intervention.
It is used when a baby is significantly overdue, if your waters break early, or if there is a medical requirement to deliver the baby. One in five babies delivered in the UK is induced, according to NHS records.
There are three steps to inducing labour, comprising a membrane sweep, prostaglandin insert, and a syntocinon drip.
A membrane sweep is often the first method to be used to try to induce labour. This involves a midwife or doctor inserting fingers into the cervical area and gently separating the membranes that surround the baby from the cervix to release prostaglandin hormones that should kick-start labour.
This may be repeated two or three times. If this fails to get you started, you will be offered induction via a pill or gel that is inserted into the vagina.
The procedure will always take place at a hospital, but you may be allowed to go home while you wait for it to work. After six hours, if contractions have still not begun, you may be offered a second dose.
Finally, if there is still no action, you may be placed on a syntocinon drip. As a last resort, medical staff may decide to recommend a caesarean section.
Because induction speeds up contractions, induced labour is often more painful than labour which begins naturally, meaning that more women who are induced are given an epidural.
There is also a higher rate of emergency caesarean sections when labour is induced - 22 for natural labour.