The Pharmacology of Prostaglandins for Induction of Labor


Address correspondence to Susan M. Yount, CNM, PhD, WHNP-BC, 2538 N. Orchard Avenue, Tucson, AZ 85712. E-mail:


Prostaglandin medications are frequently used in the process of induction of labor. Understanding the history and research that supports prostaglandin use for induction of labor is crucial for safe practice. Dinoprostone has been the standard of care for cervical ripening in term pregnancies. Misoprostol administration via various routes has been shown to be efficacious. Oral misoprostol in particular is effective and associated with reassuring maternal and fetal outcomes. In addition, cost has become a variable in decision making regarding best practice. More research is necessary to determine the safest medication, route, dose, and interval of administration. This article reviews cervical physiology and endogenous prostaglandin activity in relation to labor, and the pharmacologic profiles of synthetic prostaglandins currently used for induction of labor.