Study Finds Induction At 39 Weeks May Lead To Fewer Complications Than Waiting For Natural Labor

Some days, it can seem as though pregnancy is going to last forever.

After all, 40 weeks is a long time. By the home stretch, most women are counting down the days - and even hours - until labor starts, hoping that each little twinge and cramp is an indication that the main event is about to start.

While the option of induction ahead of that 40 week deadline has generally never been on the table (in fact, current guidelines state that it should not be performed on women who are less than 41 weeks pregnant), a recent trial has found that induction at 39 weeks - versus waiting for labor to begin spontaneously - may be safe for low-risk women and might even result in fewer complications and c-sections.

Called the ARRIVE trial, the multi-center study followed over 6,000 women at 41 hospitals throughout the United States last year. It concluded that elective induction (for low-risk women) at 39 weeks gestation resulted in a lower frequency of cesarian delivery, decreased perceived labor pain, babies required less respiratory support after birth, and women felt more in control over their birth experience.


The trial is not without controversy, however, and has sparked some heated debate throughout the medical community, as well as online. Some criticisms of the study stated that it leaves many questions unanswered, such as which labor induction methods were used (as they can cause different outcomes), how moms were qualified as "low-risk", and what types of fetal surveillance tests were used to determine risks to the baby.

However, one of the biggest concerns many experts raised is that induction - and other interventions like it - disrupts the natural process of labor and childbirth, which can have a lasting impact on both mother and baby. According to a 2015 study called Hormonal Physiology of Childbearing: Evidence and Implications for Women, Babies, and Maternity Care, Dr. Sarah Buckley found that inducing labor disrupts the natural processes (complex hormonal interactions) that "optimally prepare baby and mother for birth". This includes creating complications during the actual birth itself, bonding with the baby afterward, and may even create problems and delays with breastfeeding down the road.

Following the trial, both the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine released statements saying they early induction was still not recommended, and would not be making changes to their current guidelines. As such, if you are considering early induction, it is important to consult with your healthcare provider about current research before coming to a final decision.


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