The following guidance is based on the best available evidence. The full guideline gives details of the methods and the evidence used to develop the guidance.
This section should be read in conjunction with 'Antenatal care: routine care for the healthy pregnant woman' (NICE clinical guideline 62) and 'Intrapartum care: care of healthy women and their babies during childbirth' (NICE clinical guideline 55).
22.214.171.124 Women should be informed that most women will go into labour spontaneously by 42 weeks. At the 38 week antenatal visit, all women should be offered information about the risks associated with pregnancies that last longer than 42 weeks, and their options. The information should cover:
that membrane sweeping makes spontaneous labour more likely, and so reduces the need for formal induction of labour to prevent prolonged pregnancy
what a membrane sweep is
that discomfort and vaginal bleeding are possible from the procedure
induction of labour between 41+0 and 42+0 weeks
126.96.36.199 Healthcare professionals should explain the following points to women being offered induction of labour:
the reasons for induction being offered
when, where and how induction could be carried out
the arrangements for support and pain relief (recognising that women are likely to find induced labour more painful than spontaneous labour) (see also 188.8.131.52 and 184.108.40.206)
the alternative options if the woman chooses not to have induction of labour
the risks and benefits of induction of labour in specific circumstances and the proposed induction methods
that induction may not be successful and what the woman's options would be.
220.127.116.11 Healthcare professionals offering induction of labour should:
allow the woman time to discuss the information with her partner before coming to a decision
encourage the woman to look at a variety of sources of information
invite the woman to ask questions, and encourage her to think about her options
support the woman in whatever decision she makes.
18.104.22.168 Women with uncomplicated pregnancies should be given every opportunity to go into spontaneous labour.
22.214.171.124 Women with uncomplicated pregnancies should usually be offered induction of labour between 41+0 and 42+0 weeks to avoid the risks of prolonged pregnancy. The exact timing should take into account the woman's preferences and local circumstances.
126.96.36.199 If a woman chooses not to have induction of labour, her decision should be respected. Healthcare professionals should discuss the woman's care with her from then on.
188.8.131.52 From 42 weeks, women who decline induction of labour should be offered increased antenatal monitoring consisting of at least twice‑weekly cardiotocography and ultrasound estimation of maximum amniotic pool depth.
184.108.40.206 If a woman has preterm prelabour rupture of membranes, induction of labour should not be carried out before 34 weeks unless there are additional obstetric indications (for example, infection or fetal compromise).
220.127.116.11 If a woman has preterm prelabour rupture of membranes after 34 weeks, the maternity team should discuss the following factors with her before a decision is made about whether to induce labour, using vaginal PGE2:
risks to the woman (for example, sepsis, possible need for caesarean section)
risks to the baby (for example, sepsis, problems relating to preterm birth)
local availability of neonatal intensive care facilities.
18.104.22.168 Women with prelabour rupture of membranes at term (at or over 37 weeks) should be offered a choice of induction of labour with vaginal PGE2 or expectant management.
22.214.171.124 Induction of labour is appropriate approximately 24 hours after prelabour rupture of the membranes at term.
126.96.36.199 If delivery is indicated, women who have had a previous caesarean section may be offered induction of labour with vaginal PGE2, caesarean section or expectant management on an individual basis, taking into account the woman's circumstances and wishes. Women should be informed of the following risks with induction of labour:
increased risk of need for emergency caesarean section during induced labour
increased risk of uterine rupture.
188.8.131.52 Induction of labour should not routinely be offered on maternal request alone. However, under exceptional circumstances (for example, if the woman's partner is soon to be posted abroad with the armed forces), induction may be considered at or after 40 weeks.
184.108.40.206 Induction of labour is not generally recommended if a woman's baby is in the breech presentation. If external cephalic version is unsuccessful, declined or contraindicated, and the woman chooses not to have an elective caesarean section, induction of labour should be offered, if delivery is indicated, after discussing the associated risks with the woman.
220.127.116.11 If there is severe fetal growth restriction with confirmed fetal compromise, induction of labour is not recommended.
18.104.22.168 Induction of labour to avoid a birth unattended by healthcare professionals should not be routinely offered to women with a history of precipitate labour.
22.214.171.124 In the event of an intrauterine fetal death, healthcare professionals should offer support to help women and their partners and/or family cope with the emotional and physical consequences of the death. This should include offering information about specialist support.
126.96.36.199 In the event of an intrauterine fetal death, if the woman appears to be physically well, her membranes are intact and there is no evidence of infection or bleeding, she should be offered a choice of immediate induction of labour or expectant management.
188.8.131.52 In the event of an intrauterine fetal death, if there is evidence of ruptured membranes, infection or bleeding, immediate induction of labour is the preferred management option.
184.108.40.206 If a woman who has had an intrauterine fetal death chooses to proceed with induction of labour, oral mifepristone, followed by vaginal PGE2 or vaginal misoprostol, should be offered. The choice and dose of vaginal prostaglandin should take into account the clinical circumstances, availability of preparations and local protocol.
220.127.116.11 For women who have intrauterine fetal death and who have had a previous caesarean section, the risk of uterine rupture is increased. The dose of vaginal prostaglandin should be reduced accordingly, particularly in the third trimester.
Membrane sweeping involves the examining finger passing through the cervix to rotate against the wall of the uterus, to separate the chorionic membrane from the decidua. If the cervix will not admit a finger, massaging around the cervix in the vaginal fornices may achieve a similar effect. For the purpose of this guideline, membrane sweeping is regarded as an adjunct to induction of labour rather than an actual method of induction.
The Bishop score is a group of measurements made by doing a vaginal examination, and is based on the station, dilation, effacement (or length), position and consistency of the cervix. A score of eight or more generally indicates that the cervix is ripe, or 'favourable' – when there is a high chance of spontaneous labour, or response to interventions made to induce labour.
18.104.22.168 Prior to formal induction of labour, women should be offered a vaginal examination for membrane sweeping.
22.214.171.124 At the 40 and 41 week antenatal visits, nulliparous women should be offered a vaginal examination for membrane sweeping.
126.96.36.199 At the 41 week antenatal visit, parous women should be offered a vaginal examination for membrane sweeping.
188.8.131.52 When a vaginal examination is carried out to assess the cervix, the opportunity should be taken to offer the woman a membrane sweep.
184.108.40.206 Additional membrane sweeping may be offered if labour does not start spontaneously.
220.127.116.11 Vaginal PGE2 is the preferred method of induction of labour, unless there are specific clinical reasons for not using it (in particular the risk of uterine hyperstimulation). It should be administered as a gel, tablet or controlled-release pessary. Costs may vary over time, and trusts/units should take this into consideration when prescribing PGE2. For doses, refer to the SPCs. The recommended regimens are:
one cycle of vaginal PGE2 tablets or gel: one dose, followed by a second dose after 6 hours if labour is not established (up to a maximum of two doses)
one cycle of vaginal PGE2 controlled-release pessary: one dose over 24 hours.
18.104.22.168 When offering PGE2 for induction of labour, healthcare professionals should inform women about the associated risks of uterine hyperstimulation.
22.214.171.124 Mifepristone should only be offered as a method of induction of labour to women who have intrauterine fetal death (see section 1.2.9).
126.96.36.199 The following should not be used for induction of labour:
intravenous oxytocin alone
vaginal nitric oxide donors.
188.8.131.52 Healthcare professionals should inform women that the available evidence does not support the following methods for induction of labour:
184.108.40.206 Amniotomy, alone or with oxytocin, should not be used as a primary method of induction of labour unless there are specific clinical reasons for not using vaginal PGE2, in particular the risk of uterine hyperstimulation.
220.127.116.11 In the outpatient setting, induction of labour should only be carried out if safety and support procedures are in place.
18.104.22.168 The practice of induction of labour in an outpatient setting should be audited continuously.
22.214.171.124 In the inpatient setting, induction of labour using vaginal PGE2 should be carried out in the morning because of higher maternal satisfaction.
126.96.36.199 Wherever induction of labour is carried out, facilities should be available for continuous electronic fetal heart rate and uterine contraction monitoring.
188.8.131.52 Before induction of labour is carried out, Bishop score should be assessed and recorded, and a normal fetal heart rate pattern should be confirmed using electronic fetal monitoring.
184.108.40.206 After administration of vaginal PGE2, when contractions begin, fetal wellbeing should be assessed with continuous electronic fetal monitoring. Once the cardiotocogram is confirmed as normal, intermittent auscultation should be used unless there are clear indications for continuous electronic fetal monitoring as described in 'Intrapartum care' (NICE clinical guideline 55).
220.127.116.11 If the fetal heart rate is abnormal after administration of vaginal PGE2, recommendations on management of fetal compromise in 'Intrapartum care' (NICE clinical guideline 55) should be followed.
18.104.22.168 Bishop score should be reassessed 6 hours after vaginal PGE2 tablet or gel insertion, or 24 hours after vaginal PGE2 controlled-release pessary insertion, to monitor progress (see 22.214.171.124).
126.96.36.199 If a woman returns home after insertion of vaginal PGE2 or tablet or gel, she should be asked to contact her obstetrician/midwife:
when contractions begin, or
if she has had no contractions after 6 hours.
188.8.131.52 Once active labour is established, maternal and fetal monitoring should be carried out as described in 'Intrapartum care' (NICE clinical guideline 55).
184.108.40.206 Women being offered induction of labour should be informed that induced labour is likely to be more painful than spontaneous labour.
220.127.116.11 During induction of labour, healthcare professionals should provide women with the pain relief appropriate for them and their pain (as described in 'Intrapartum care' [NICE clinical guideline 55]). This can range from simple analgesics to epidural analgesia.
18.104.22.168 Birth attendants (carers and healthcare professionals) should offer women support and analgesia as required, and should encourage women to use their own coping strategies for pain relief.
22.214.171.124 The opportunity to labour in water is recommended for pain relief.
126.96.36.199 Tocolysis should be considered if uterine hyperstimulation occurs during induction of labour.
Failed induction is defined as labour not starting after one cycle of treatment as described in 188.8.131.52.
184.108.40.206 If induction fails, healthcare professionals should discuss this with the woman and provide support. The woman's condition and the pregnancy in general should be fully reassessed, and fetal wellbeing should be assessed using electronic fetal monitoring.
220.127.116.11 If induction fails, decisions about further management should be made in accordance with the woman's wishes, and should take into account the clinical circumstances.
18.104.22.168 If induction fails, the subsequent management options include:
a further attempt to induce labour (the timing should depend on the clinical situation and the woman's wishes)
caesarean section (refer to 'Caesarean section' [NICE clinical guideline 13]).
22.214.171.124 For women who choose caesarean section after a failed induction, recommendations in 'Caesarean section' (NICE clinical guideline 13) should be followed.
126.96.36.199 To reduce the likelihood of cord prolapse, which may occur at the time of amniotomy, the following precautions should be taken:
Before induction, engagement of the presenting part should be assessed.
Obstetricians and midwives should palpate for umbilical cord presentation during the preliminary vaginal examination and avoid dislodging the baby's head.
Amniotomy should be avoided if the baby's head is high.
188.8.131.52 Healthcare professionals should always check that there are no signs of a low-lying placental site before membrane sweeping and before induction of labour.
184.108.40.206 If uterine rupture is suspected during induced labour, the baby should be delivered by emergency caesarean section (refer to 'Caesarean section' [NICE clinical guideline 13]).
 Recommendation 220.127.116.11 is from 'Antenatal care: routine care for the healthy pregnant woman' (NICE clinical guideline 62).
 Vaginal PGE2 has been used in UK practice for many years in women with ruptured membranes. However, the SPCs (July 2008) advise that in this situation, vaginal PGE2 is either not recommended or should be used with caution, depending on the preparation (gel, tablet or pessary). Healthcare professionals should refer to the individual SPCs before prescribing vaginal PGE2 for women with ruptured membranes, and informed consent should be obtained and documented.
 Recommendation 18.104.22.168 is from 'Intrapartum care: care of healthy women and their babies during childbirth' (NICE clinical guideline 55).
 At the time of publication (July 2008), misoprostol was not licensed for use for labour induction in fetal death in utero in the UK. Informed consent should therefore be obtained and documented.
 Recommendation 22.214.171.124 is from 'Antenatal care: routine care for the healthy pregnant woman' (NICE clinical guideline 62).
 Recommendation 126.96.36.199 is from 'Intrapartum care: care of healthy women and their babies during childbirth' (NICE clinical guideline 55).