Is It Safe to Induce at Full Term?

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ByAnisa Arsenault
Associate Editor
Updated
Mar 2017
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Elective inductions might not be so taboo anymore.

A new study from Thomas Jefferson University has dissociated full-term, non-medically required inductions from c-sections after performing controlled trials on 844 women.

While full term is technically considered 40 weeks, researchers looked at women induced at both 39 and 40 weeks, finding no increased risk of c-section at either time. And it turns out one week early might be the optimum time for induction. Compared to moms who didn’t have an induction, those who were induced at 39 weeks had slightly less blood loss and less meconium staining. (Meconium, a fetus’s fecal matter, is more likely to be excreted into the amniotic sac after 40 weeks, potentially posing health risks to baby and mom.)

“Some experts in our field are calling for induction at full term to become the standard of care,” says Vincenzo Berghella, MD, co-author of the study. “While I don’t think this review will change standards of care, it clearly shows that there are some minor benefits (with induction at 39 weeks even without medical indications) that obstetricians may want to consider.”

So don’t get your hopes up for a perfectly smooth, pre-scheduled birthing experience just yet. But if you’re nearing your due date, know that this isn’t the first study that says elective inductions can reduce your need for a c-section. A 2013 report from Oregon Health & Science University found that after 37 weeks, only 3 percent of induced second-time moms ended up needing a c-section compared to 7 percent of those who waited for natural birth.

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