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Inducing Labor and C-Sections: A New Study Looks at the Debated Link

Cesarean section delivery

We all know that the United States has a ridiculously high rate of c-section deliveries, but medical professionals and non-pros alike continue to debate whether inducing labor increases the likelihood that a pregnant woman will end up on the operating table with a cesarean birth.

Despite a variety of results from past research, new research published online April 13 in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology actually found no connection between inducing labor and C-section deliveries in uncomplicated pregnancies of full-term singleton babies.

The research combined data from several other studies that looked at women who delivered at full term, but whose water didn't break prior to the beginning of labor. This made sure the results only came from women whose inductions were not medically necessary.

In the end, the researchers didn't find any increase in risk of C-sections for women who were inducted at 39 weeks versus those that weren't until at least past 40 weeks.

Perhaps more surprisingly, the researchers actually found benefits of induction at 39 weeks! It was associated with slightly less blood loss as well as less meconium staining (meconium, when present, can lead to infection—or worse—for both mom and baby).

The study also found that birth weight was lower in babies of inducted mothers by about five ounces.

The study's author wasn't surprised to find some benefits to inducing at 39 weeks: "Other data point to the same effect," Vincenzo Berghella, M.D., the director of maternal fetal medicine and a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Thomas Jefferson University, told parents.com. Unfortunately, he added, many people don't keep up with new, better data—which may be one reason why the induction-leads-to-C-section mythology endures.

Related: 8 Reasons to Wait for Your Due Date

As for what pregnant women should make of these new results? Don't ask your ob-gyn for an induction just yet. "Know that induction before 39 weeks is still not good unless there is an accepted indication," Berghella says. "At 39 weeks, it may be that indeed it's good to induce even without medical indications, but we should wait for one more trial, currently being done by NIH."

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Alesandra Dubin is a new twin mom. She's also a Los Angeles-based writer and the founder of lifestyle blog Homebody in Motion. Follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Google+ and Twitter.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Labor & Delivery: Inducing Labor