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Stillbirth Risk Higher in Older Moms but Inducing Labor Early Helps, Experts Say

Update Date: Feb 02, 2013 01:04 PM EST

Older women are at high risk of having stillbirths. Now, a new study says that inducing delivery during early stages of pregnancy can cut the risk of stillbirth or the baby being born with other health complications.

The study was conducted by researchers from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. In older women, the placenta stops working properly by 42 weeks of gestation, reports The Telegraph, meaning that the baby no longer gets adequate nutrition and may die due to starvation.

"Induction of labour in older mothers is a common method of intervention perceived to reduce the risk of stillbirth. While the mechanism for an excess risk of stillbirth in women of advanced maternal age is still fairly unknown, the findings collaborated in this paper provide a strong argument for an early induction of labour," said Dr Mandish Dhanjal, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and co-author of the study paper.

Researchers looked at the data available from past studies on maternal age and risk of birth complications. Study results showed that risk of stillbirth for women aged 40 years or over is doubled when delivery occurs at 39-40 weeks. However and 39 weeks of gestation, the risk of stillbirth for older women is just the same as the risk for women in the 20s at 41 week gestation.

"It is justifiable for experts to conclude that inducing labour at an earlier stage of gestation (39-40 weeks) in older mothers (40+ years) could prevent late stillbirth and any maternal risks of an ongoing pregnancy, without increasing the number of operative vaginal deliveries or emergency caesarean sections," Dr Anna Kenyon, University College London Hospital and co-author of the research, according to a news release.

Kenyon added that further research on the subject will show the effects of early induction of pregnancy in older women. 

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