How do labor induction meds work and what are the risks?
Medications used for labor induction work by either softening the cervix or by causing the uterus to contract; and in some cases, both. One common labor med is Cervidil, which is actually a string placed in the vagina next to the cervix. It has prostaglandin in it, which acts as an aid to ripen the cervix and start the labor process. Another common labor med you might hear about is Pitocin, which is actually a hormone. Pitocin is similar to a hormone our body already makes -- oxytocin -- and is given intravenously to stimulate contractions.
The primary risk of any medication used to induce labor is that it can work a little too well, causing too many contractions inside the uterus. If this occurs, baby may go into fetal distress, which ups the risk of needing a c-section. But this is a rare case. When used properly in carefully selected patients with close surveillance, meds used for labor inductions are always considered safe -- for Mom and baby.