Should You Induce Labor?

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Scheduled early birth can increase risks and complications for mothers and babies.

Should You Induce Labor?
Pregnancy is an amazing time in the life of a family. During these nine months, your world begins to change forever as you prepare to welcome a new life. For women, these changes can include physical ones as their bodies adapt to growing a baby. As the due date approaches, the anticipation grows daily as you wonder when your baby will come. It’s understandable that many parents become so anxious that they consider an induction of labor to help speed along the process. Some doctors may even encourage this decision based upon convenience or planning purposes. So should you choose to induce labor?

Why You Should Wait
The March of Dimes (, whose global purpose is “working together for stronger, healthier babies” doesn’t think so. A recent study of 20,000 babies showed that for every week the pregnancy lasted, the need for breathing machines, risk of pneumonia and serious respiratory problems was reduced by about 40 percent per week. These problems increase the need for NICU stays for newborns, and cause brain, breathing and feeding problems that may increase the overall health complications in your child’s entire lifetime.

C-Section Risks
Additional reasons to avoid an elective induction include an increase in Cesarean delivery (c-section) and its maternal-infant risks: prolonged hospitalizations, increased risk of bleeding and infection, future risks of problems with the placenta or issues associated with future pregnancies as many doctors are no longer offering a chance to deliver vaginally after having a Cesarean section.

The 2006 National Vital Statistics Report (the most recent one available) showed that from 1990 to 2006, inductions increased from 9.5 percent to 22.5 percent, and Cesarean deliveries by 33 percent during the same time period. While there are times when a c-section is required for the health of mother or baby, choosing major surgery, in which early respiratory problems are more common in the newborn, doesn’t seem like the safest decision.

Ask Before Scheduling
If your healthcare provider offers you an elective induction, ask these questions before agreeing.

Is there a predetermined time frame that the labor must be started?

What happens if the induction methods don’t seem to be working?

How exactly will labor be induced and what options exist for alternative plans if your situation or response isn’t entirely typical? Additional considerations may be whether the due date is exactly right and the doctor’s reasoning for offering an induction.

Inducing labor for medical reasons such as maternal or fetal health issues, high blood pressure, infection, poor fetal growth or the water breaking too early remains a very important tool to care for the health of both mother and baby. However, a normal pregnancy is meant to last a full nine months; it’s needed to develop a beautiful, healthy little bundle of joy. Remember, you will only be pregnant with that baby once. Cherish it. Before you know it, your little baby will be starting kindergarten and you may wonder why you ever wanted to rush this precious time in your life.

Why Babies Need 39 Weeks*

If your pregnancy is healthy and you’re planning to schedule your baby’s birth, it’s best to stay pregnant for at least 39 weeks. Babies born too early may have more health problems at birth and later in life than babies born full term. Being pregnant 39 weeks gives your baby’s body all the time it needs to grow.

Here’s why:
• Important organs, like his brain, lungs and liver, get all the time they need to develop.
• Reduced risk of vision and hearing problems after birth.
• Babies born at a healthy weight have an easier time staying warm than babies born too small.
• He can suck, swallow and stay awake long enough to eat after he’s born. Babies born early sometimes can’t do these things.
• If you schedule an induction or c-section and your due date is off by a week or two, your baby may be born too early.
• A c-section can cause problems for your baby. Babies born by c-section may have more breathing and other medical problems than babies born by vaginal birth.
• A c-section is major surgery for mom. Moms can expect to spend 2 to 4 days in the hospital, and 4 to 6 weeks at home to fully recover. You also could have complications from the surgery, like infections and bleeding.


Robert M. Biter, MD, is an obstetrician gynecologist at Seaside Women’s Health in Encinitas and an advocate of natural birthing practices.