Research on the risk of C-section delivery when labor is induced is
conflicting. Some studies have shown an increased risk of C-section with
labor induction and other studies have shown no correlation or
increased risk of C-section. A new study published in BJOG offers a
systemic review of previous studies in an attempt to find a consensus on
the topic.

University of Calgary’s Dr. Stephen Wood led the research reviewing clinical trials on women undergoing labor induction or natural labor between 37 and 42 weeks gestation. More than 11,000 medical cases were reviewed with 6,200 women in the labor induction group and 5,900 women in the natural labor group. Wood found that 17% of women induced to progress labor eventually gave birth via C-section. When women chose natural labor, C-section was the end result 20% of the time.

Based on these numbers, women who undergo labor induction are less likely to have a C-section than women who choose to wait out labor and give birth naturally (without induction).

There has been a strong push to control or reduce C-section rates in US hospitals in recent years. Between 1996 and 2011 a 12% increase in C-sections was noted. C-sections are major surgery and, as such, come with a long list of potential complications. C-sections are also more costly and tend to result in longer hospital stays compared to vaginal delivery. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention claim 32% of pregnancies end in C-section with C-sections topping the list of the most common surgeries performed in the United States.

Despite the study outcome, Wood claims additional research is needed to fully understand the relationship between labor induction and C-section risk. “It’s really premature to try and reach a conclusion about what might make a difference. I think [pregnant women] should perhaps worry less about whether or not they’re going to have a C-section just because they’re going to be induced.”

Source: S. Wood, S. Cooper, S. Ross. Does induction of labour increase the risk of caesarean section? A systematic review and meta-analysis of trials in women with intact membranes. BJOG, DOI: 10.1111/1471-0528.12328.