For many moms-to-be, the idea of induced labor can bring on anxiety about unnecessary risks. And previous studies have suggested that inducing labor can increase the likelihood that mothers would need to undergo a Cesarean section.
But a report recently published online in BJOG finds that inducing labor actually slightly decreases the risk of having a C-section.
Researchers, led by Dr. Stephen Wood from the University of Calgary, studied clinical trials in which women 37 to 42 weeks pregnant, whose labor was prolonged, were randomly assigned to either have labor induced or to wait for natural labor to take effect. In total, the researchers had information on over 6,200 women who were selected to be induced and over 5,900 women who were selected to wait.
The results show that about 17% of women in the induced-labor group ultimately had a C-section, and 20% of the women who were selected to wait for natural labor ended up having a C-section.
Dr. Wood said: "It's quite remarkable that the studies do show a slight reduction of C-sections."
Risks and rates of Cesarean sections in the US
The Huffington Post recently reported about a study that revealed C-sections rates varied across the country, jumping from 7.1% in some hospitals to 69.9% in others. The article attributes these differences to varying practices within each institution.
And the article also reports that C-section rates in the US increased by 12% between 1996 and 2011.
Practices and rates aside, C-sections can carry certain risks with them, which is why some moms-to-be are understandably hesitant. The risk of bladder or bowel injuries, for example, increases for women who have undergone a C-section. In addition, the procedure introduces a risk of breathing problems for babies.
According to the Centers for Disease and Control, nearly 32% of births in the US are done by C-section, making it the most common surgery performed in the country.
More studies are likely needed
Though the report reveals that induction of labor isn't necessarily linked to needing a C-section, Soo Downe, a professor from the University of Central Lancashire in the UK, told Reuters that reducing inductions will not necessarily reduce C-sections.
Downe says: "It's really premature to try and reach a conclusion about what might make a difference for it."
The authors of the study say the surprise result may be due to "non-treatment effects," and recommends that "additional trials are needed."
Wood, however, thinks there is a take-away message for moms-to-be: "I think that they [pregnant women] should perhaps worry less about whether or not they're going to have a C-section just because they're going to be induced."