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Induction of labor with oxytocin

Deborah A Wing, MD, MBA
Section Editor
Charles J Lockwood, MD, MHCM
Deputy Editor
Vanessa A Barss, MD, FACOG


Induction of labor refers to techniques for stimulating uterine contractions to accomplish delivery prior to the onset of spontaneous labor. The induction of labor in women with an unscarred uterus will be discussed here. Issues regarding induction of labor in women who have had a previous cesarean delivery and methods of cervical ripening are reviewed separately. (See "Cervical ripening and induction of labor in women with a prior cesarean delivery" and "Techniques for ripening the unfavorable cervix prior to induction".)


Between 1990 and 2012, the overall frequency of labor induction more than doubled in the United States, rising from 9.5 in 1990 to a high of 23.8 percent in 2010, before declining to 23.3 percent in 2012 [1].


Obstetrical and medical — Delivery before the onset of labor is indicated when the maternal/fetal risks associated with continuing the pregnancy are thought to be greater than the maternal/fetal risks associated with early delivery [2]. However, the relative risk of continuing the pregnancy versus early delivery can rarely be determined with precision. It is influenced by factors such as gestational age, presence/absence of fetal lung maturity, severity of the maternal or fetal clinical condition, and maternal factors related to likelihood of induction success (eg, cervical status, parity).

The only options for intervention are induction of labor or cesarean delivery. Induction is generally preferred when there are no contraindications to labor and vaginal birth, given the increased maternal risks associated with cesarean delivery. (See 'Contraindications' below and "Cesarean delivery: Postoperative issues".)

Examples of some common conditions where induction is often indicated include, but are not limited to [2]:

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Nov 21, 2017.
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