I had a friend who had gotten “tired of being pregnant” around a week
before her due date and her doctor promptly scheduled an elective
induction. I was bothered by it at the time.  If a baby hasn’t been born yet, and there are no signs of distress, was it really a wise idea for it to be “forced” into the world?

There are many reasons why mothers should be extremely careful about any measures they take to artificially start their labor. While medical technology has advanced to a point at which it can be very accurately determined how far along as woman is in her pregnancy, and how well physically developed a baby is, there is no absolute guarantee of this development. Just as they do after they are born, fetuses develop at different rates, and necessitate their own scheduling to ensure they are fully prepared for birth. Though women are given an EDD, or estimated date of delivery, during their first visit to their practitioner, this due date is really only an estimate to give the woman some idea as to when she can expect her baby. Some babies are born a few weeks before or a couple of weeks after this date without suffering any negative side effects. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Some babies are born within days of their EDDs and still cope with major consequences related to insufficient development.

Physical development is not the only concern when it comes to inducing labor for a baby who has not shown signs of readiness to be born. Studies have indicated labor induction is closely linked to the development of regulatory system disorders, psychological problems, stunted emotional development and even autism spectrum disorders. The belief is that babies who have not been born yet are still developing cognitively and psychologically, regardless of how developed they are physically. When they are forced into the world before they are fully developed, they can face serious problems.

Most experts do not recommend induction for any reason other than to protect the life of the mother or child. Even those doctors who are willing to entertain desires for elective inductions are recommended to only do so for mothers who have already borne at least two children at or close to full term. Induction prior to this can lead to serious physical consequences for the mother, including a much more difficult and dangerous labor, as well as physical and cognitive challenges for the baby.

Source: Bishop, Edward. Dangers Attending Elective Induction of Labor, The Journal of the American Medical Association, 1958, 166(16): 1953-1956.