Induced labor not more risky than natural birth, study says

Induced labor not more risky than natural birth, study says

Tel Aviv University researchers show that natural deliveries and induced deliveries have similar neonatal outcomes

Illustrative photo of newborns (photo credit: Nati Shohat/Flash90)
Illustrative photo of newborns (photo credit: Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Inducing labor is not necessarily more dangerous for mothers or their children than natural labor, a new Tel Aviv University study shows.

Natural, spontaneous deliveries and induced deliveries following the rupture of the amniotic sac in the mother share similar neonatal outcomes, contradicting common wisdom, the study has determined.

“Induced labor — the process of jumpstarting delivery using prostaglandin — has gotten a bad rap. We found little justification for this” in the case of women whose water broke prematurely, said principal investigator Dr. Liran Hiersch, who led the study with Dr. Eran Ashwal, both of TAU’s Sackler School of Medicine and the Helen Schneider Hospital for Women at Rabin Medical Center.

“People have an idea that everything natural is better, including childbirth. But induction is not necessarily more dangerous for mother and child than Mother Nature herself.”

The study was published in the Archives of Gyneaecology and Obstetrics.

Most expectant mothers are warned about artificially induced deliveries. These warnings counsel that induction may cause a low fetal heart rate, an increased risk of infection to mother and baby, and uterine rupture or excessive bleeding after delivery.

By contrast, “we have found that induction produces healthy mothers and infants, with risk factors similar to those of spontaneous deliveries,” Hiersch said.

The researchers evaluated the outcome of 625 women admitted to Rabin Medical Center in Israel with prolonged, 24-hour premature rupture of membranes or water breakage. Women who did not exhibit the spontaneous onset of labor within 24 hours from the moment their water broke underwent prostaglandin induction. These were then compared to those women who did develop the spontaneous onset of labor within 24 hours of being admitted. No significant difference was found between the groups regarding maternal age, parity and obstetrical complications.

Women in the induction group were found to be at an increased risk for Caesarean section, but researchers believe this was due mainly to blocked birth canals and not the induction itself.

Artificial induction is a possibility for all expectant mothers who are nearly two weeks past their delivery date, who experience high blood pressure or diabetes, who have a uterine infection or who simply haven’t experienced contractions despite their water having broken. These women are often hospitalized for 24 hours. But after 24 hours have passed without natural delivery, most medical professionals will induce labor artificially to reduce subsequent risks to mother and child.

“There is a palpable fear among women who are waiting for the contractions to begin,” said Hiersch. “They fear fetal distress, they fear infection, umbilical cord trouble, but we have found no basis for their fears. These mothers should be assured that induced labor poses no increased risk to the health of their babies and themselves.”

The findings should also help reassure medical professionals about the procedure, Hiersch said.

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