Wednesday, June 18th, 2014
The number of women who are having labor medically induced before their due dates is on the decline, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention–good news for the health of babies who may face risks if born prematurely. The rate of premature Cesarean sections is also falling, the CDC found. More from US News:
Rates of induced labor declined across the board since 2006 for expectant mothers at 35 to 38 weeks of gestation, with the greatest decline at 38 weeks, researchers with the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) found.
This is good news for the health of these babies, who can face serious health problems when delivered preterm, said Dr. Edward McCabe, chief medical officer for the March of Dimes.
Babies born early are 1.5 to two times more likely to die during their first year of life, compared to babies delivered following a full term of 39 weeks or more, he said.
“There’s this feeling that we’ve done so well with our premature babies, we’ve been seduced by the advances and think it’s safe to induce delivery early,” McCabe said. “We’ve ignored the fact that there are significant risks of illness and death in late preterm and early term babies.”
The largest decline in induced labor occurred for early term births at 37 to 38 weeks, which fell 12 percent between 2006 and 2012, the CDC reports. Late preterm births at 34 to 36 weeks of gestation declined by 4 percent.
This decrease comes at a time when medical societies are raising concerns about unnecessary early deliveries.
The rate of induced labor more than doubled between 1990 and 2010, from nearly 10 percent of births to just under 24 percent. While some of these induced births were needed to preserve the life of mother and child, many also occurred to better fit the birth into the busy schedules of the parents or the doctor, McCabe said.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists doesn’t recommend induced deliveries prior to 39 weeks of pregnancy without a clear medical reason.
Image: Woman in delivery room, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, August 13th, 2013
Women who give birth after having labor induced may be slightly more likely to have children who are later diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), according to a new study published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics. More from USA Today:
The increased autism risk likely stems from an underlying problem with the pregnancy, rather than any of the methods used to jump-start labor, says lead author Simon Gregory of the Duke Institute of Molecular Physiology.
It’s possible that “infants destined to develop autism are less likely to send out the correct biochemical signals for normal progression of labor,” says Tara Wenger, a pediatric genetics fellow at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, who wasn’t involved in the new study, published in JAMA Pediatrics.
Pregnancy complications increase the risk of many developmental disorders, says Michael Rosanoff, associate director for public health research and scientific review at Autism Speaks, an advocacy group.
And a growing number of studies now link autism to a variety of things that can compromise the health of a pregnancy, says Rosanoff, who wasn’t involved in the study, funded by the Environmental Protection Agency. Researchers are increasingly looking at prenatal risk factors for autism, because this period plays a key role in brain development. Science has ruled out vaccines as a cause of autism, he says.
But studies have found that children are at higher risk for autism if they are born early or very small; if they are in medical distress during delivery; if they have older mothers or fathers; or if they are born less than a year after an older sibling. Autism risk also goes up if a mother has diabetes or high blood pressure; is obese; is exposed to significant air pollution during pregnancy; had low levels of folic acid; takes medications such as an anti-seizure drug called valproic acid; or makes antibodies toxic to the fetal brain.
Gregory notes that his findings are still preliminary and that women shouldn’t resist a doctor’s recommendation about jump-starting labor out of fear of autism.
Image: Woman in labor, via Shutterstock
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