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Induced Labor May Prevent Need for Cesarean Section

Elective induction at 41 weeks led to fewer surgical deliveries, review shows

TUESDAY, Aug. 18 (HealthDay News) -- Inducing labor doesn't necessarily increase the risk of Cesarean section delivery, according to a study that challenges the widely held opinion.

Researchers reviewed available data on elective induction, in which women choose to have labor induced rather than requiring it for medical reasons. Most of the studies included women who were about one week past their due date.

The review results suggest that, compared with waiting, elective induction of labor at or after 41 weeks' gestation lowered Cesarean delivery risk by 22 percent. In addition, women whose labor was electively induced were half as likely to have meconium-stained amniotic fluid, which is a sign of fetal intrauterine stress.

The findings suggest that elective induction of labor may be safer than continuing pregnancy past 41 weeks, according to the researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine and University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). Their study appears in the Aug. 18 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

"It appears there is misunderstanding regarding the association of increased Cesarean deliveries with elective induction of labor, a procedure which has been rising in frequency," review lead author Dr. Aaron Caughey, an associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at UCSF, said in a Stanford University news release. "However, our findings need to be tempered with women's and physicians' expectations of choosing to induce labor."

The message for pregnant women is that labor induction can be done without increasing Cesarean risk if doctors give induction sufficient time to work, said co-author Dr. Douglas Owens, director of the Stanford-UCSF Evidence-based Practice Center.

"Women should talk with their physician about how they would handle induction and what their approach to the procedure would be," Owens said in the news release.

More information

The U.S. National Women's Health Information Center has more about labor and birth.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Stanford University, news release, Aug. 17, 2008

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