labor-induction-risks.jpgThere have been conflicting reports about the risks and benefits of labor induction. Some experts believe inducing labor is unnecessary and even claim the practice can be detrimental to the fetus while other experts claim labor induction is completely safe. Those experts now have a bit more clinical precedence to back up their claims.

According to a study from researchers at the University of Edinburgh, labor induction about the 40th week gestation may just save a baby’s life. Labor induction also reduced the number of C-sections compared to women allowed to go into labor naturally after the 40th week. For the sake of the study only voluntary inductions were used so none of the women were in need of induction for medical reasons. The study is published in the British Medical Journal.

Researchers collected and examined data for more than one million deliveries. The deliveries ranged from 37 weeks gestation to 41 weeks gestation. They found a death rate of 0.18% for non-induced deliveries and 0.08% for induced deliveries. The difference is tiny – just one saved life per every 1,040 deliveries, but expand that to the number of deliveries that occur in the world every year and the impact grows much larger.

Currently, the guidelines for labor induction suggest offering induction at around the 41st week gestation, but studies like this one may help change that to the 39th or 40th week. Currently there is a mindset that labor induction will increase the risk of C-section, but that may not be the case. While researchers understand this is just one study and that further study is needed, they hope doctors will look at the positive outcome as a reason to reexamine the current guidelines.

Previous studies have shown that after the 38th week of pregnancy, the risk of stillbirth and death increase. This research study is one of very few examining the impact of labor induction prior to the 41st week of gestation.

Source: Dr. Sarah Stock, et al. University of Edinburgh. 14 May, 2012.