Elective Inductions before 40 Weeks Can Reduce Infant Mortality

I went to my 32-week OB checkup this morning, and near the end of the appointment, the doctor looked up from my chart and said, “Soooo…let’s talk about induction.”


To me, “induction” has always been a bad word when it involves delivering a normal-sized baby to a healthy mother before the milestone of 40 weeks. Early inductions for non-medical reasons have always felt a little…selfish to me. I imagine high-powered business women scheduling their baby’s births to occur between conference calls. I imagine uncomfortable women who were “so over” pregnancy and just wanted to get the baby out as soon as possible. I remember myself at 37 weeks last time fretting that if I didn’t schedule an induction, my mom would miss the whole thing because she lives out of town. None of these scenarios puts the baby’s needs first.

This morning, my doctor wanted to discuss induction because her records said I’d had a 4-hour labor with my first child, and since statistics show that second babies tend to come faster than firsts, she wanted to talk about scheduling an induction to ensure my son wouldn’t come accidentally shooting out on the living room rug or in the car on the way to the hospital.

The doctor’s records were wrong, though. In fact, I’d had a downright leisurely labor that stretched over26 hours, and when my doc heard that, she agreed that an induction probably wouldn’t be necessary for me after all. Phew!

I was relieved for a variety of reasons: I’d heard induced births were longer, more painful, more likely to end in c-sections, and in some ways more dangerous to the baby. But is all of that true, or has early induction just gotten a bad rap?

Researchers in Scotland recently studied the records of more than 1.2 million women who gave birth between 1981 and 2001, and their results showed that non-medical inductions between 37 and 40 weeks is actually linked with lower infant mortality rates and did not increase the need for caesarean sections.

The major downside is that babies who are induced before 40 weeks were more likely to spend time in a special care unit (8% compared to 7.3% for babies born after spontaneous labor, induction, or c-section at a later date), but even then, I’d rather have a baby admitted to the NICU than not survive the birth at all. (The mortality rates of the two groups differed by .1%.)

Read more about the study here. [As of 5/21, that link has moved, and I can’t figure out where! Here’s a link to a different story cover the study, and here’s a link to the study itself.]

How do you feel about elective inductions performed before 40 weeks? Has this new research changed your mind?