Risks

Labor induction carries various risks, including:

  • Failed induction. About 75 percent of first-time mothers who are induced will have a successful vaginal delivery. This means that about 25 percent of these women, who often start with an unripened cervix, might need a C-section. Your health care provider will discuss with you the possibility of a need for a C-section.
  • Low heart rate. The medications used to induce labor — oxytocin or a prostaglandin — might cause abnormal or excessive contractions, which can diminish your baby's oxygen supply and lower your baby's heart rate.
  • Infection. Some methods of labor induction, such as rupturing your membranes, might increase the risk of infection for both mother and baby. Prolonged membrane rupture increases the risk of an infection.
  • Uterine rupture. This is a rare but serious complication in which your uterus tears open along the scar line from a prior C-section or major uterine surgery. Very rarely, uterine rupture can also occur in women who had never had previous uterine surgery. An emergency C-section is needed to prevent life-threatening complications. Your uterus might need to be removed.
  • 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 uterine surgery
  • The placenta is blocking your cervix (placenta previa)
  • Your baby is lying buttocks first (breech) or sideways (transverse lie)
  • You have an active genital herpes infection
  • The umbilical cord slips into your vagina before delivery (umbilical cord prolapse)

If you've had a prior C-section and have labor induced, your health care provider will avoid certain medications to reduce the risk of uterine rupture.

References
  1. Wing DA. Induction of labor. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed April 25, 2017.
  2. Frequently asked questions. Pregnancy FAQ069. What to expect after your due date. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. http://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/What-to-Expect-After-Your-Due-Date. Accessed April 25, 2017.
  3. 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. Reaffirmed 2016.
  4. Wing DA. Cervical ripening and induction of labor in women with a prior cesarean delivery. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed April 25, 2017.
  5. Meconium aspiration syndrome. Merck Manual Professional Version. https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/pediatrics/perinatal-problems/meconium-aspiration-syndrome. Accessed April 25, 2017.
  6. Wing DA. Techniques for ripening the unfavorable cervix prior to induction. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed April 25, 2017.
  7. Frequently asked questions. Labor, delivery and postpartum care FAQ154. Labor induction. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. http://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Labor-Induction. Accessed April 25, 2017.
  8. Gabbe SG, et al. Abnormal labor and induction of labor. In: Obstetrics: Normal and Problem Pregnancies. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2017. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed April 25, 2017.
  9. Cunningham FG, et al. Induction and augmentation of labor. In: Williams Obstetrics. 24th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2014. http://accessmedicine.mhmedical.com. Accessed April 25, 2017.
  10. Bush M, et al. Umbilical cord prolapse. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed April 25, 2017.
  11. Butler Tobah Y (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. May 22, 2017.