Inducing labor at 39 weeks might help avoid C-section – study

A pregnant woman. Photo/CNN
A pregnant woman. Photo/CNN

In Summary

  • Before the new study, women who would ask about undergoing a labor induction at 39 weeks sometimes would be advised to wait until they reached at least 41 weeks.
  • Risks associated with a post-term pregnancy include placental problems, infections in the womb, and unexpected complications, such as preeclampsia.
  • The new study simply suggests that induction can be an option, while the ultimate birthing decision remains with the family.

Once a mother reaches 39 weeks in her pregnancy journey, she can feel the anticipation and anxiety of what comes next.

By that time, physicians will typically go into what’s called “expectant management” mode and simply watch and wait until labor ensues.

Yet a new study suggests that inducing labor at 39 weeks can be another viable option for some mothers-to-be, even though it has been shunned in the past.

The study, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, found that elective induced labor at 39 weeks resulted in a lower likelihood of certain complications and did not result in a greater frequency of adverse outcomes for the baby.

Waiting longer to deliver the baby could raise the mother’s likelihood of needing to undergo a cesarean section, according to the study.

As it turns out, the study reverses the commonly held belief that induction may increase the chance of delivering by C-section.

Many pregnant women would do anything to avoid a C-section, as the procedure comes with the same risks associated with a major surgery and may also cause problems in future pregnancies. Recovery also takes longer than it would from a vaginal birth.

In the United States, about 31.9% of deliveries are by C-section, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The World Health Organization has considered the ideal rate for C-sections to be between 10% and 15%.

“What this study does is it helps us to offer more options to help moms and dads to get to the place where they want to be,” said study author Dr. Robert Silver.

“So if they really want to be induced because they’re uncomfortable or anxious about complications and they really want to maximize their chances of vaginal birth, that’s great.

“If they have no interest in being induced then they don’t have to be because the risks are still really low,” Silver said.

“This just simply gives us better information to help with that personalized counseling to help patients chose what they want to do,” he said.

“By no means should people conclude from this study that everybody should be induced at 39 weeks. It simply means that it is a reasonable option for people who chose to.”

Read more on the new c-section study here

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