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.

Jul. 22, 2011