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Induction of labour (NICE clinical guideline 70)

Published: 02/07/2008

This guideline was produced by the National Collaborating Centre for Women’s and Children’s Health (NCC-WCH) on behalf of the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE).

Induced labour has an impact on the birth experience of women. It may be less efficient and is usually more painful than spontaneous labour, and epidural analgesia and assisted delivery are more likely to be required.

Induction of labour is a relatively common procedure. In 2004 and 2005, one in every five deliveries in the UK was induced. This includes induction for all medical reasons. When labour was induced using pharmacological methods (whether or not surgical induction was also attempted), less than two thirds of women gave birth without further intervention, with about 15% having instrumental births and 22% having emergency caesarean sections. Induction of labour has a large impact on the health of women and their babies and so needs to be clearly clinically justified.

Induction of labour can place more strain on labour wards than spontaneous labour. Traditionally, induction is carried out during the daytime when labour wards are often already busy. This guideline reviews the policy and methods of induction, and the care to be offered to women being offered and having induction of labour.