When Unneeded, Induced Labor May Increase Complications

FRIDAY March 9, 2012 -- Inducing labor when it's not necessary increases the risk of cesarean section delivery and other childbirth complications, a new study says.

The Australian researchers noted that induced labor is common and increasing in many countries. In many cases, labor is induced for "social" and other "non-recognized" reasons, they added.

For the study, the investigators analyzed data from more than 28,000 women with spontaneous onset of labor, induction of labor for known medical reasons, and induction of labor for non-recognized reasons.

Compared with spontaneous labor, inducing labor for non-recognized reasons was associated with a 67 percent increased risk of cesarean section delivery, a 64 percent increased risk that an infant would require care in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), and a 44 percent increased risk that an infant would require treatment in the NICU.

The researchers also found that mothers who gave birth at or after 41 weeks' gestation had the lowest likelihood of requiring epidural or spinal analgesia for pain relief. Those who gave birth after 37 weeks had the lowest risk of severely tearing the perineum during childbirth, they said, and those who gave birth after 38 weeks had the lowest risk of labor complications.

Overall, the lowest risk of mother and infant complications occurred with birth between 38 and 39 weeks and with the spontaneous onset of labor.

The study was published in the February issue of the journal Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica.

"Our research relates to the optimal timing and management of labor and birth at term for women with an uncomplicated pregnancy," study leader Rosalie Grivell, of the University of Adelaide's Robinson Institute, said in a journal news release. "We hope our findings will increase awareness of potential complications related to the common use of induction of labor in situations where there is no serious maternal or fetal problem."

More information

The U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has more about induced labor.

Posted: March 2012


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