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Induced Labor Reduces Risk of C-Section

Update Date: Apr 28, 2014 12:06 PM EDT

Even though cesarean sections are a lot safer today than they were in the past, there is still a risk involved when doctors are forced to cut open a woman's body in order to take the infant out. In a new study, researchers found that when labor is induced, the risk of needing a C-section delivery falls.

In this study, the researchers analyzed 157 trials that involved 31,085 deliveries. The researchers were focused on examining the links between C-sections and induced labor and between C-sections and expectant management. Induced labor, which is when a doctor uses medication to speed up labor, occurs in 20 percent of all births. Doctors might decide to induce labor in patients with pregnancy complications, such as preeclampsia, diabetes, preterm rupture of the membranes, and overdue pregnancy. Expectant management is also known as the wait-and-see approach in which the doctors wait to observe how the labor progresses without medical help.

The researchers discovered that contrary to popular belief that induction increases risk of a C-section delivery, induction was actually tied to a 12 percent reduced risk of C-section in comparison to expectant management. The researchers noted that the reduced risk was seen in term or post-term deliveries and not pre-term births. C-section risk also fell for women with high-risk or low-risk pregnancies due to induction. Women who had induced labor also had lower risks of fetal death and complications when compared to women who were on expectant management.

"The risk of cesarean delivery following labor induction was significantly lower than the risk associated with expectant management," Professor Khalid Khan, Queen Mary University of London, London, United Kingdom, and coauthors explained in their paper. "This finding supports evidence from systematic reviews but is contrary to prevalent beliefs and information from consumer organizations, guidelines and textbooks."

The authors added, "Our meta-analysis has provided a robust answer to the disputed question of risk of cesarean delivery associated with induction of labor. Women whose labor was induced were less likely than those managed expectantly to have a cesarean delivery. In addition, the risk of fetal death and admission to neonatal intensive care unit were decreased in the induction group."

The study was published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

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