Inducing labor without a medical reason often results in negative outcomes for the mother, including increased rates of cesarean delivery, greater blood loss, and an extended length of stay in the hospital. A new study also finds the procedure doesn’t provide any benefit for the newborn.
The research only applies to women having their first child, and may not pertain to women having their second or third child.
“The benefits of a procedure should always outweigh the risks. If there aren’t any medical benefits to inducing labor, it is hard to justify doing it electively when we know it increases the risks for the mother and the baby,”
says Christopher Glantz, professor of maternal fetal medicine at the University of Rochester and the study’s author.
Scheduled deliveries have become commonplace in the past decade, with physicians making elective inductions part of their routine obstetric care. Social reasons, such as convenience and patient requests to deliver with their physician, are often cited for the ongoing increase in elective inductions.
34% Cesarean Section Rate
Because the birthing process is being started from ground zero, inducing labor does not work as well as natural labor and more problems are likely to arise.
“As a working professional and a mother, I know how tempting it can be to schedule a delivery to try to get your life in order, but there is a reason that babies stay in the womb for the full term,” says Loralei Thornburg, assistant professor specializing in maternal fetal medicine. “Why put you and your newborn at risk if you don’t have to?”
Approximately 34 percent of women who opted for elective induction of labor ultimately had a cesarean section, considered major surgery, increasing the risk for infection, respiratory complications, the need for additional surgeries, and results in longer recovery times.
Additionally, women who were induced experience more bleeding—even after taking cesarean deliveries into account—and stayed in the hospital longer than women who delivered vaginally.
For every 100 women who undergo elective induction, an additional 88 days are spent in the hospital compared to the same number of women who labor spontaneously.
“Counseling women to steer clear of an elective induction can be challenging, but the bottom line is that medical reasons trump social reasons,”
says Eva Pressman, M.D., director of Maternal Fetal Medicine at the Medical Center.
“If physicians are armed with information about the risks associated with elective induction they have a better chance of convincing their patients to avoid this route.”
Scheduled deliveries do not improve the health of newborns either. When women were induced, babies were more likely to need oxygen immediately following delivery and were more likely to require specialized attention from members of the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).
The study included 485 women who delivered their first child between January and December of 2007. Researchers reviewed each mother’s and baby’s medical chart, as opposed to relying on medical coding.
Evaluating each chart allowed researchers to figure out exactly why women were induced and what the complications were, catching subtle details that may have otherwise been overlooked.
As opposed to women having their first baby, women who have already had a child may actually respond more favorably to induction.
“If you’ve delivered once before, your body knows the drill and can do it again,” Glantz says.
“Past research has shown that inducing labor early without a legitimate medical reason is risky, and this study further validates these findings” adds Thornburg.
J. H. Vardo, D.O., L. L. Thornburg, M.D., and J. C. Glantz, M.D., M.P.H.
Maternal and Neonatal Morbidity Among Nulliparous Women Undergoing Elective Induction of Labor
Journal of Reproductive Medicine, Feb 2011