NPR's Beginnings Series Warns of the Risks of Elective Induction

recent All Things Considered story that aired as a part of NPR’s Beginnings series discussed concerns over elective labor inductions and the movement by some doctors to decrease this trend in our country’s maternity care system.  From the news piece, Doctors to Pregnant Women:  Wait at Least 39 Weeks:

“Statistics show that from 1990 to 2006 the percentage of women who induced labor more than doubled, and nearly a third of women were having cesareans.” (--narrator)

“…It’s now really well-documented in national studies that the risk of the baby having to require intensive care in a neonatal intensive care unit — even the risk of infant death — is increased when the baby is born as little as two weeks before the due date,” says [Ed Donovan, pediatrician at Cincinnati’s Children’s Hospital].”

Later in the story the narrator, Gretchen Kuda Croen, goes on to explain that our nation’s labor induction rate is also hovering around 30%–a statistic that is surely well-known by Science & Sensibility readers.  To me, the two non-coincidentally identical statistics—30% labor inductions and a 30% cesarean rate*—make a glaring statement: when we try to force childbirth to occur when mom and/or baby are not yet ready, that induction is not going to work.  And, in the case of elective induction: rather than admit to this error in timing, hold our horses and let mom go home, inviting labor to start on its own on a different day, we dig in our heals, allow our own personal agendas to take over, and we end up pushing far beyond the option of a vaginal birth, and head straight to the operative suite–setting mom up for a longer and, in most cases, more difficult post-birth recovery.

And let me tell you, I don’t speak from a lofty pedestal here:  I speak from experience.  Eight years ago, my husband and I scheduled an elective induction for our first born at 38 1/2 weeks.

Thankfully for our family, everything went well:  our daughter was born healthy and strong with no cause to be admitted to the NICU.  But just because our story was uneventful, I don’t turn a blind eye to what practitioners like Jay Iams, a specialist in maternal fetal medicine at Ohio State University, are reporting.   A couple of years and plenty of education later, I came to understand the risks we had taken when we opted to electively induce the birth of our daughter “for social reasons” (we were due to move out of state two weeks after the baby’s due date).

Several doctors and medical facilities from Ohio, which are featured in this story, are touting the great achievements they are making in reducing their elective induction rates—along with their NICU admission numbers.  I would love to see this trend replicated in hospitals all over the country.  Better yet, I would love to know that women are sharing the news on this issue with other women: that labor induction for convenience sake constitutes a big gamble in terms of their child’s health and well-being.  I applaud NPR not only for broadcasting this story, but for taking on the entire Beginnings series.  To listen to more stories in this series, go here.  To read about what is being covered in this summer-long series, go here.

Other stories in this series:

Drug Given to Moms After Childbirth Sparks Controversy (misoprostol)

In Mozambique, A Fight To Keep Babies HIV-Free

In Mozambique, Grim Prospects For Mother And Child

Group Prenatal Care: Finding Strength In Numbers

A Prenatal Surgery For Spina Bifida Comes Of Age

Love It Or Hate It, Pregnancy ‘Bible’ Has A Lot To Say

Rethinking SIDS: Many Deaths No Longer A Mystery

*some studies quote rates as high as 34%

Posted by: Kimmelin Hull, PA, LCCE

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