Your due date is set at 40 weeks of gestation. Most women do not deliver on their due date. Sometimes induction of labor has to happen due to various complications with pregnancy or for other reasons that your doctor will discuss with you. Depending on your cervical exam, different methods of induction will be chosen. The most common medications used include prostaglandins (Cervidil or Cytotec) and oxytocin IV (Pitocin). Mechanical dilation of the cervix can also be achieved with placing a balloon and inflating it with water within the cervical canal or laminaria.
Usually if your cervix is "favorable," which means soft, thinned out and dilated, oxytocin is used through the IV to make contractions occur regularly and strongly. If your cervix is not favorable, meaning it is thick and closed, then it needs to be "ripened" with prostaglandins first (E.g., Cervidil). Cervidil is a medication that is placed vaginally by the cervix for 12 hours so that it can ripen it. Sometimes you may need more than one Cervidil. Cytotec is another prostaglandin that we can use for ripening and for induction of labor with a favorable cervix as well. Breaking your water (amniotomy) when it is safe can also speed up the process and cause more contractions. All of the above happens in the hospital while you are being monitored for contractions and your baby's heart beat is also closely watched.