Most pregnant women who want to give birth naturally believe that being induced increases their chances of having a cesarean section. With C-section rates hovering around 33 percent in the U.S.—higher than ever before, with all signs pointing to their continued climb—expectant women are left wondering how they can avoid unnecessary surgery and whether medical induction has anything to do with it.
Until recently, a good chunk of research seemed to support the idea that inducing labor could lead to a C-section. But a 2015 analysis out of Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, had us all scratching our heads. Maybe we were wrong.
"All studies showing increase in cesarean were retrospective, and so of inferior quality compared to randomized trials and meta-analyses of randomized trials," says Vincenzo Berghella, M.D., director of maternal fetal medicine and a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Thomas Jefferson University.
Berghella authored the study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology that looked closely at 844 women across five randomized controlled trials. His team found no connection whatsoever between induction and C-sections, specifically in births of single, full-term babies to mothers with uncomplicated pregnancies. This was the case for both failed and successful inductions.
For women who were induced at 39 weeks, there was no greater risk of having a C-section than in those induced past 40 weeks. In fact, the inductions that occurred in the earlier week were found to involve less blood loss than a non-induced birth (although the amount was minimal at 50ml) and a lower incidence of meconium staining (in which the baby's fecal matter is excreted into the amniotic sac, increasing chances of infection and newborn aspiration). That being said, the average weight at birth was 5 ounces lower in induction babies.
These positive associations with induction are making us think twice about the best gestational age for moms and babies. But, experts say to take the information with a grain of salt. So what's Berghella's advice?
"To wait until at least until 39 weeks if there are no indications for induction," he says. Until then, we can freak out a little less at the thought of being induced. That is, unless it's before the hospital bag has been packed!