UAB studies benefits, risks of elective labor induction

UAB a part of NIH study that published new findings on induced labor at 39 weeks.

alan tita 2016Alan Tita consults with a patient.A recent National Institutes of Health study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that low-risk, first-time mothers who had labor induced at 39 weeks experienced lower cesarean section rates and did not pose an enhanced risk of complications for the infant.

The University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Division of Maternal Fetal Medicine and Center for Women’s Reproductive Health participated in this study and provided leadership for its design and implementation.

“The big takeaways from this study are that mothers and doctors who elect to induce labor at 39 weeks are not posing an additional risk to the infant or mother, or increasing chances of a c-section as many previously thought,” said Alan Tita, M.D., Ph.D, professor in UAB’s School of Medicine and director of the Center of Women’s Reproductive Health. “We know that elective induction at 39 weeks – one week before a woman’s traditional due date – has become more common in recent years, so it is promising that induction of labor has not been found to increase complications for mother or baby.”

More than 6,000 women at 41 participating hospitals were studied, with half randomly assigned scheduled induction at 39 weeks and the other half receiving standard care until 41 weeks. Findings showed that the induced group measured lower rates of c-sections and hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, as compared to the standard group.  For women induced at 39 weeks, their overall stay in the hospital was shorter due to fewer cesarean deliveries.

Tita believes that for the benefits to be translated to every day practice, it is important for providers to follow labor management guidelines endorsed by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists used in the study.