Labor induction carries various risks, including:
- The need for a C-section. Labor induction is more likely to result in the need for a C-section — particularly if you've never given birth before and your cervix hasn't already begun to thin, soften and dilate (unfavorable cervix).
- Premature birth. Inducing labor too early might result in a premature birth. This poses risks for the baby, such as difficulty breathing.
- Low heart rate. The medication used to induce labor — oxytocin or a prostaglandin — might provoke too many contractions, which can diminish your baby's oxygen supply and lower your baby's heart rate.
- Infection. Labor induction increases the risk of infection for both mother and baby.
- Umbilical cord problems. Labor induction increases the risk of the umbilical cord slipping into the vagina before delivery (umbilical cord prolapse), which might compress the cord and decrease the baby's oxygen supply.
- Uterine rupture. Uterine rupture is a rare but serious complication in which the uterus tears open along the scar line from a prior C-section or major uterine surgery. An emergency C-section is needed to prevent life-threatening complications.
- Bleeding after delivery. Labor induction increases the risk that your uterine muscles won't properly contract after you give birth (uterine atony), which can lead to serious bleeding after delivery.
Labor induction isn't appropriate for everyone. Labor induction might not be an option if:
- You've had a prior C-section with a classical incision or major surgery on your uterus
- The placenta is blocking your cervix (placenta previa)
- Your baby is lying crosswise in the uterus (transverse fetal lie)
- You have an active genital herpes infection
- Your birth canal is too small to allow for a normal labor or birth
In addition, if you've had a prior C-section with a low transverse incision and have labor induced, you'll be closely monitored. If you've had a prior C-section or major uterine surgery and have labor induced, your health care provider will avoid certain medications to reduce the risk of uterine rupture.
June 24, 2014
- Wing DA. Principles of labor induction. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed March 11, 2014.
- Frequently asked questions. Pregnancy FAQ069. What to expect after your due date. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. http://www.acog.org/~/media/For%20Patients/faq069.pdf?dmc=1&ts=20140312T0943568024. Accessed March 12, 2014.
- Berghella V. Cesarean delivery: Technique. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed March 11, 2014.
- Wing DA. Cervical ripening and induction of labor in women with a prior cesarean delivery. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed March 11, 2014.
- Clark SL, et al. Neonatal and maternal outcomes associated with elective term delivery. American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology. 2009;100:156.
- Wing DA. Techniques for cervical ripening the unfavorable cervix prior to induction. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed March 11, 2014.
- Frequently asked questions. Labor, delivery and postpartum care FAQ154. Labor induction. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. http://www.acog.org/~/media/For%20Patients/faq154.pdf?dmc=1&ts=20140312T0940538962. Accessed March 12, 2014.
- Gabbe SG, et al. Obstetrics: Normal and Problem Pregnancies. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2012. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed March 12, 2014.
- Cunningham FG, et al. Williams Obstetrics. 23rd ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2010. http://www.accessmedicine.com/resourceTOC.aspx?resourceID=46. Accessed March 12, 2014.
- Bush M, et al. Umbilical cord prolapse. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed March 11, 2014.
- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) Committee on Practice Bulletins — Obstetrics. ACOG Practice Bulletin No. 107: Induction of labor. Obstetrics & Gynecology. 2009;114:386.
- Labor and birth. Office on Women's Health. http://www.womenshealth.gov/pregnancy/childbirth-beyond/labor-birth.cfm. Accessed March 12, 2104.
- Thinking about inducing your labor: A guide for pregnant women. http://www.effectivehealthcare.ahrq.gov/index.cfm/search-for-guides-reviews-and-reports/?pageaction=displayproduct&productID=353#toc. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Accessed March 11, 2014.
- Meconium aspiration syndrome. The Merck Manuals: Home Edition for Patients and Caregivers. http://www.merckmanuals.com/home/sec23/ch264/ch264i.html. Accessed March 11, 2014.
- Grotegut CA, et al. Oxytocin exposure during labor among women with postpartum hemorrhage secondary to uterine atony. American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology. 2011;204:56.e1.