Dangers of Choosing Your Baby's Birthday

Induced labor may lead to complications

(RxWiki News) While it is becoming increasingly common for pregnant women and their doctors to decide to induce labor, a new study has found that inducing labor is linked to various negative health consequences.

In a study that involved 485 women delivering a baby for the first time, Christopher Glantz, M.D., M.P.H., professor of Maternal Fetal Medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center, and colleagues analyzed the impact of scheduled deliveries on mothers and their newborns.

Barring any scheduled delivery as a life-saving measure, the researchers found that induced labor provided no health benefits to the mother or newborn. In fact, inducing labor was associated with increased rates of cesarean delivery (cutting into a woman's abdomen to delivery her baby), higher amounts of blood loss, and longer stays in the hospital for mothers.

The researchers also found that scheduled deliveries also pose a risk to the health of newborns. Babies of mothers who chose induced delivery were not only more likely to require oxygen immediately after delivery, but were also more likely to need the specialized care from a neonatal intensive care unit.

According to Dr. Glantz, the benefits of any procedure should outweigh the risks. As such, it is difficult to defend the choice of a scheduled delivery when we know that it increases the risk of multiple health hazards to both the mother and her newborn.

The study showed that about 34 percent of pregnant women who chose induced labor eventually had a cesarean section, compared to only 20 percent of women who went through natural labor. Similar to induced delivery, cesarean delivery is thought by many to be a routine and safe form of delivery. However, cesarean delivery increases the risk of complications in both mother and newborn too.

Dr. Glantz and his colleagues also found that for every 100 women who opted for elective induction, the women spent an additional 88 days in the hospital compared to women who went through the natural process of labor. Even though this calculation means that some women may have spent merely a couple hours longer in the hospital, it represents increased costs for both the mother and hospital when all induced labors are taken into account.

It can be difficult to counsel women against a risky procedure such as elective induction, says Eva Pressman, M.D., director of Maternal Fetal Medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center. Research findings such as these can provide doctors with the tools they need to effectively inform expectant mothers of the risks of induced labor.

About 20 percent of labors in the United States are started artificially. Women who are working professionals often decide to induce labor in order to keep their life on schedule. However, as assistant professor Dr. Loralei Thornburg puts it, "Why put you and your newborn at risk if you don't have to?"

The study by Glantz and colleagues appears in in the February issue of the Journal of Reproductive Medicine.

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Review Date: 
March 2, 2011