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Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2014 Jun 19;(6):CD003101. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD003101.pub3.

Vaginal prostaglandin (PGE2 and PGF2a) for induction of labour at term.

Author information

C/o Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth Group, Department of Women's and Children's Health, The University of Liverpool, First Floor, Liverpool Women's NHS Foundation Trust, Crown Street, Liverpool, UK, L8 7SS.



Prostaglandins have been used for induction of labour since the 1960s. This is one of a series of reviews evaluating methods of induction of labour. This review focuses on prostaglandins given per vaginam, evaluating these in comparison with placebo (or expectant management) and with each other; prostaglandins (PGE2 and PGF2a); different formulations (gels, tablets, pessaries) and doses.


To determine the effects of vaginal prostaglandins E2 and F2a for third trimester cervical ripening or induction of labour in comparison with placebo/no treatment or other vaginal prostaglandins (except misoprostol).


We searched the Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth Group's Trials Register (1 March 2014) and bibliographies of relevant papers.


Clinical trials comparing vaginal prostaglandins used for third trimester cervical ripening or labour induction with placebo/no treatment, with each other, or other methods listed above it on a predefined list of labour induction methods.


We assessed studies and extracted data independently.


Seventy randomised controlled trials (RCTs) (11,487 women) are included. In this update seven new RCTs (778 women) have been added. Two of these new trials compare PGE2 with no treatment, four compare different PGE2 formulations (gels versus tablets, or sustained release pessaries) and one trial compares PGF2a with placebo. The majority of trials were at unclear risk of bias for most domains.Overall, vaginal prostaglandin E2 compared with placebo or no treatment probably reduces the likelihood of vaginal delivery not being achieved within 24 hours. The risk of uterine hyperstimulation with fetal heart rate changes is increased (4.8% versus 1.0%, risk ratio (RR) 3.16, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.67 to 5.98, 15 trials, 1359 women). The caesarean section rate is probably reduced by about 10% (13.5% versus 14.8%, RR 0.91, 95% CI 0.81 to 1.02, 36 trials, 6599 women). The overall effect on improving maternal and fetal outcomes (across a variety of measures) is uncertain.PGE2 tablets, gels and pessaries (including sustained release preparations) appear to be as effective as each other, small differences are detected between some outcomes, but these maybe due to chance.


Prostaglandins PGE2 probably increase the chance of vaginal delivery in 24 hours, they increase uterine hyperstimulation with fetal heart changes but do not effect or may reduce caesarean section rates. They increase the likelihood of cervical change, with no increase in operative delivery rates. PGE2 tablets, gels and pessaries appear to be as effective as each other, any differences between formulations are marginal but may be important.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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