• Body mass index;
  • induction of labour;
  • labour complications;
  • obesity;
  • prolonged pregnancy

Please cite this paper as: Arrowsmith S, Wray S, Quenby S. Maternal obesity and labour complications following induction of labour in prolonged pregnancy. BJOG 2011;118:578–588.

Objective  To investigate the effect of maternal obesity on mode of delivery following induction of labour (IOL) for prolonged pregnancy and subsequent intrapartum and neonatal complications.

Design  Retrospective (historical) cohort study.

Setting  Liverpool Women’s Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, UK.

Population  A total of 29 224 women with singleton pregnancies between 2004 and 2008 of whom 3076 had a prolonged pregnancy (defined as ≥290 days or 41+3 weeks of gestation) and received IOL.

Methods  Kruskal–Wallis test, chi-square test and multivariable logistic regression.

Main outcome measures  Mode of delivery and risk of delivery and neonatal complications in obese verses non-obese women following IOL.

Results  Obese women had a significantly higher rate of IOL ending in caesarean section compared with women of normal weight following IOL (38.7% versus 23.8% primiparous; 9.9% versus 7.9% multiparous women, respectively); however, length of labour, incidence of postpartum haemorrhage and third-degree tear, rate of low cord blood pH, low Apgar scores and shoulder dystocia were similar in all body mass index categories. Complications included a higher incidence of fetal macrosomia and second-degree, but not third-degree, tear in primiparous women.

Conclusions  Higher maternal body mass index at booking is associated with an increased risk of prolonged pregnancy and increased rate of IOL. Despite this, more than 60% of obese primiparous and 90% of multiparous women with prolonged pregnancies who were induced achieved vaginal delivery and labour complications in the obese women with prolonged pregnancies were largely comparable to those of normal weight women with prolonged pregnancies. Our data suggest that IOL for prolonged pregnancy in obese women is a reasonable and safe management option.