Researchers identified that using misoprostol along with a balloon catheter to induce labor may be the most effective option for mothers and their babies.
Mom giving birth holding husbands hand
Credit: Gorodenkoff/Shutterstock

Did you know that nearly one million women undergo labor induction every year? It's an incredibly common procedure, but there's really no standard of practice—but that might be changing. Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania may have discovered the best method for labor induction—and it involves a two-prong approach.

A 2016 clinical trial on the topic, published in Obstetrics & Gynecologyfound that the best approach combines drug administration and a manual procedure: They recommend a mixture of a drug called misoprostol and the insertion of a balloon catheter into the vagina to help ease the cervix open. This combination leads to earlier delivery than either method alone produces. 

Researchers observed nearly 500 women who required induction—the women were randomly assigned to one of four groups: Two groups had drug induction alone, the other two groups used combinations of drug and catheter induction. They found the average time before delivery was shorter when both misoprostol and a Foley catheter were used together. 

"Previous studies comparing labor-induction methods have looked at a small patient population, few induction methods, and have produced conflicting results. Our results clearly show that the misoprostol-Foley combination method could significantly reduce the total time mothers spend in the delivery room — potentially leading to a reduction in labor-associated healthcare costs and risks to mothers and their babies," the study's lead author Lisa D. Levine, MD, MSCE, an assistant professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, said, according to Science Daily. 

"Using combination methods in every case of labor induction in America would spare pregnant women more than 100,000 days of labor annually. That in turn would reduce hospital costs, reduce the health risks to mother and child that come with prolonged labor, and reduce the stress that mothers experience while awaiting delivery."