Good News for First-Time Moms

Good News for First-Time Moms

Good News for First-Time Moms-Inducing Labor at 39 Weeks

Choosing to induce labor at 39 weeks reduces risk of C-sections, study finds

The new research contradicts a long-held belief that inductions lead to more complications, including more cesareans.
by Elizabeth Chuck /
A technician performs an ultrasound on a pregnant woman. A new study finds that inducing labor in a healthy woman at 39 weeks lowers the risk of delivery by cesarean section. Ton Koene / VWPics via AP file

The findings from a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine recently suggest that inducing labor at 39 weeks in healthy first-time mothers does not raise the risk of a cesarean delivery; in fact, it lowers the risk. These findings defy the results of prior studies that deduced induction can increase the likelihood of a C-section (surgery that can be labeled as high-risk since it carries a greater threat of infection or postpartum hemorrhaging than natural birth). The trial was sponsored by the National Institutes of Health and tracked more than 6,000 women in sites across the country. Half were given the elective, non-medically necessary inductions in the week before their due dates, while the others waited for labor to start without any intervention.

The results? Those induced at 39 weeks had lower rates of maternal and fetal complications (including fewer C-sections), lower preeclampsia, and lower risks of hypertension. Additionally, fewer newborns needed respiratory support.

The previous studies that concluded inductions can lead to more C-sections were based on past data comparing a woman who goes into labor spontaneously at any time with a woman who is induced at the same point in her pregnancy-which could be before the 39th week, if complications developed, or when the woman was overdue and had gone past the 40 weeks. According to principal investigator Dr. William Grobman, a professor of OB-GYN at Northwestern Medicine, “people misinterpreted the data” because they included so many scenarios, which seemed to support the link that inductions at any point in a pregnancy carry more risk, which is not the case. Researchers for the study believed induction at the 39th week would show different results, as it is the week of lowest risk for mother and baby. They believe that since the baby is fully developed at 39 weeks, there is not much benefit in holding off.

The trial was the largest of its kind and findings received an endorsement from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine.

What do you think? Would you consider inducing at the 39th week?

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