For women whose pregnancy continues to 41 weeks, inducing labour could lower the risk of stillbirth.
Stillbirth, according to World Health Organisation (WHO), is defined as a baby born with no signs of life at or after 28 weeks of gestation. Globally, there were nearly 2.6 million stillbirths in 2015, with more than 7178 deaths a day.
Labour induction is the stimulation of uterine contractions during pregnancy before labour begins on its own to achieve a vaginal birth. Researchers in Sweden have suggested that reducing it to 41 weeks could cut risk of complications and baby loss.
The study analysed 2,760 women with an uncomplicated, single pregnancy who were admitted to Swedish hospitals between 2016 and 2018.
Published in the British Medical Journal, the study showed that the “wait and see” approach could lead to lower oxygen levels and breathing issues.
In the “wait and see” group for the study, six babies died compared to none in the induction group. The deaths included five stillbirths and one early neonatal death.
The study inferred that for every 230 women induced at 41 weeks, one perinatal death would be prevented.
“Choice is important within maternity care, and clear information about available options should be accessible to all pregnant women, enabling them to make fully informed and timely decisions,” said Sara Kenyon, professor of evidence based maternity care at the University of Birmingham, who agreed that induction at 41 weeks could lower the risk of stillbirths.
“A woman’s individual needs and preferences should always be taken into account and they must have the opportunity to make informed decisions in partnership with their healthcare professionals,” added Alexander Heazell, consultant obstetrician and spokesperson for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.