Inducing labour when it's not necessary increases the risk of caesarean section delivery and other childbirth complications, a new study says.
The Australian researchers noted that induced labour is common and increasing in many countries. In many cases, labour is induced for "social" and other "non-recognised" reasons, they added.
For the study, the investigators analysed data from more than 28,000 women with spontaneous onset of labour, induction of labour for known medical reasons, and induction of labour for non-recognised reasons.
Compared with spontaneous labour, inducing labour for non-recognised reasons was associated with a 67% increased risk of caesarean section delivery, a 64% increased risk that an infant would require care in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), and a 44% increased risk that an infant would require treatment in the NICU.
Spontaneous labour best for mother and baby
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 labour complications.
Overall, the lowest risk of mother and infant complications occurred with birth between 38 and 39 weeks and with the spontaneous onset of labour.
The study was published in the journal Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica.
"Our research relates to the optimal timing and management of labour 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 labour in situations where there is no serious maternal or foetal problem."
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