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.