Inducing Labor May Not Boost C-Section Risk
Study also found that prompting delivery in 39th week did not affect health of baby or mother
By Amy Norton
WEDNESDAY, March 2, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Contrary to longstanding concerns, pregnant older women who have their labor induced near their due date may not face an increased risk of needing a cesarean section, a new clinical trial suggests.
British researchers found that when older first-time moms had their labor induced during the 39th week of pregnancy, they were at no greater risk of a C-section -- or any other negative effects for themselves or their newborns.
Experts said the study, published in the March 3 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, suggests that labor induction is safer than doctors have thought.
But the question remains: Is there any benefit to doing it when a woman is having a healthy pregnancy?
"There's no clear evidence that there is," said Dr. William Grobman, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, in Chicago.
"This was a very good study, but it shouldn't lead to any massive change in practice," said Grobman, who wrote an editorial published with the study.
Officially, labor induction is recommended only in certain circumstances -- such as when a woman has a medical condition that is putting her or her baby at risk, or if pregnancy goes beyond 42 weeks. (A full-term pregnancy lasts about 40 weeks.)
Labor induction for certain nonmedical reasons can be done -- when a woman lives far from a hospital, for instance -- but not before the 39th week of pregnancy, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).
The new trial tested a practice that is not standard, Grobman said: Trying labor induction in women who were relatively older -- age 35 and up -- and expecting their first baby, but who were having a healthy pregnancy.
In theory, labor induction during the 39th week could prevent some late stillbirths. And previous studies have found that older women -- particularly those having their first baby -- are at greater risk of those stillbirths, said lead researcher Dr. Kate Walker.
But even with the increased risk, late stillbirth is rare. So, there's been concern that any benefit of labor induction would be outweighed by potential complications, including a failed labor that then requires a C-section.