BISMARCK, N.D. - Most doctors advise against inducing labor before a pregnancy reaches term because of health risks for the baby. Now a new study by the National Institute of Health shows induction at 39 weeks may actually improve the health of the baby.
Christa Rutschke is a first-time mother to twins Leah and Eli, born five weeks sooner than planned. She was induced into early labor.
"Thirty-five weeks seemed very early, so I was concerned that the babies would have to spend a lot of time in the NICU, which gave me a lot of anxiety. But in the end, it all worked out,” Rutschke said.
Inducing labor has been used for high risk pregnancies, including twins. The new study shows there might be benefits for low-risk pregnancies.
"The induction of labor is very useful and very beneficial in certain problems we encounter in obstetrics, and actually improves what we call perinatal morbidity and mortality,” said Dr. Jerry Obritsch, an obstetrician with Mid Dakota Clinic.
The study analyzed more than 6,100 first-time mothers comparing induction at 39 weeks or letting the pregnancy take it's natural course. Rates of C-sections (19 percent for induced, 22 percent for control group), high blood pressure during pregnancy (9 percent for induced, 14 percent for control group) and babies needing respiratory support (3 percent for induced, 4 percent for control group) all decreased when labor was induced.
"If inductions are done properly, the success rate is remarkably high and again, important in the process of having healthy baby, healthy mom,” Obritsch said.
"A little bit of anxiety going home with two tiny babies but we have wonderful supportive families that are both in town, so I know we'll have a lot of support,” Rutschke said.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists doesn’t recommend induction before 39 completed weeks of gestation.
The study was presented at Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine in Dallas on Feb. 1. It still needs peer review before it's published.