Induction of labour

Induction is an intervention to stimulate the onset of labour. It is performed for a number of reasons related to both the mother and the baby, such as maternal or baby medical conditions and post-term pregnancy (Coates et al 2020). For more information, see Clinical commentary.

This indicator looks at induction of labour for selected women giving birth for the first time.

Key findings

  • Induction among selected first-time mothers was relatively stable nationally until 2010 at around 26%, but has shown a steady increase since then to 46% in 2020.
  • The proportion of induced labours was slighter higher in public hospitals in 2020 (47%) compared to private hospitals (45%). However, the gap between public and private has declined over time with a higher proportion occurring in public hospitals since 2016.

The interactive data visualisation below presents data on induction of labour in selected women giving birth for the first time by selected maternal characteristics. Click the Data tables button to view the data between 2004 and 2020 and use the radio buttons to see how each characteristic has changed during this time.

Induction of labour for selected women giving birth for the first time, by State/territory of birth and all Australia, 2004 to 2020.

This chart shows the proportion of induced labour for selected women giving birth for the first time, by state/territory of birth, 2004 to 2020. Data can be viewed for each state/territory of birth, and for all Australia. The proportion for selected women induced in giving birth for the first time increased from 26% in 2004 to 46% in 2020.

Clinical commentary

When induction of labour is indicated on medical grounds, it is undertaken when the risks of continuing the pregnancy are greater than the risks associated with being born (McDonnell 2011). For the woman to make a fully informed decision, clear information should be given regarding the risks of continuing the pregnancy and awaiting the spontaneous onset of labour versus the risks of the intervention of induction.

Maternal factors such as wellbeing, cervical assessment, parity and previous mode of delivery, and fetal factors such as gestational age, growth and wellbeing of the fetus need to be considered when deciding whether labour should be induced (McCarthy & Kenny 2013). These factors also assist in determining the method of induction, which can be surgical (including artificial rupture of membranes) and/or medical (including use of prostaglandins and/or oxytocin) (RANZCOG 2021; Queensland Health 2017).

There are numerous indications for induction of labour. Prolonged pregnancy is the most common indication, with births after 42 weeks associated with increased risk for the baby and perinatal death (Gulmezoglu et al. 2012). It is widely recommended that induction be offered to women at 41–42 weeks of gestation (Gulmezoglu et al. 2012; NICE 2008; Queensland Health 2017).

Indicator specifications and data

Excel source data tables are available from the Data tab.

For more information refer to Specifications and notes for analysis in the technical notes.