In a new study, researchers find that inducing labor in healthy first-time mothers in the 39th week of pregnancy helps reduce rates of cesarean sections compared with waiting for labor to begin naturally at full term.
In addition, infants born to women induced at 39 weeks did not experience more stillbirths, newborn deaths or other major health complications.
Delivering by C-section generally is considered safe for mother and baby.
However, the procedure involves major surgery and, therefore, poses increased complication risks and longer recovery times for mothers compared with women who deliver vaginally.
Previous research has shown that inducing labor without medical reason before 39 weeks poses health risks for newborns.
This is because the lungs, brain and other organs haven’t fully developed.
But inductions at 39 weeks—one week before a woman’s due date—has become more common in recent years.
In the study, the researchers wanted a better understanding of the risks and benefits to mother and baby.
They enrolled about 6,100 healthy, first-time mothers-to-be at 41 hospitals.
About half of the pregnant women were randomly assigned to labor induction at 39 weeks, while the other half waited for labor to begin naturally.
Some women in the latter group were induced after 39 weeks for medical reasons.
The team found that among those who were induced at 39 weeks, 569 (18.6%) had C-sections compared with 674 women (22.2%) who delivered by C-section after waiting for labor to occur naturally.
In addition, women in the induced labor group had less pregnancy-related hypertension and postpartum infections.
The researchers also found that infants born to both groups of mothers had the same risks for complications such as newborn death, seizure, infection, injury and the need for infant respiratory support.
The researchers suggest that this study is a potential game changer and will have a significant impact on the practice of obstetrics.
Some women prefer to schedule an induction because it allows them to plan ahead.
Of course, women without pregnancy complications can choose how they want to experience labor and delivery, and we respect their wishes.
The multicenter study is funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
The senior author is George Macones, MD, head of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
The study is published in The New England Journal of Medicine.
Copyright © 2018 Knowridge Science Report. All rights reserved.
Source: The New England Journal of Medicine.