Healthy first-time mothers who induce labor in the 39th week of pregnancy are less likely to undergo a cesarean section than those who wait for labor to begin naturally, finds a new study funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Women who induced labor at 39 weeks were also less likely to experience pregnancy-associated hypertension and their babies were less likely to require respiratory support.
The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) funded the study to determine the risks and benefits of elective induction at 39 weeks. The Biostatistics Center based at George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health (GW Milken Institute SPH) served as the data coordinating center. The Biostatistics Center provided leadership in and had primary responsibility for the design, execution, coordination, data management, and analysis of the trial, among other responsibilities.
Prior to the study, doctors were concerned that inducing labor at 39 weeks would increase the likelihood of needing a cesarean section. Although safe, women take longer to recover from a cesarean section, compared with vaginal birth, and the surgery may increase the risk of problems with vaginal birth in future pregnancies.
“In healthy first-time moms, induction of labor at 39 weeks appears to be safe for the baby and may even benefit the mother by reducing her chances of cesarean delivery or developing high blood pressure late in her pregnancy,” said Dr. Madeline Murguia Rice, an associate research professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at Milken Institute SPH, and co-investigator of the NICHD Maternal-Fetal Medicine Units Network Data Coordinating Center. “This information can be useful when women and their care providers are discussing the option of induction of labor at 39 weeks as an alternative to waiting for labor to begin naturally.”
The study’s results were published in detail in the August 9 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.