Collaborative decision making
All clinicians recognize the primacy of patient autonomy.14 Competent patients have the right to select the course of care that they believe is optimal. When a patient decides to continue her pregnancy past 41 weeks, it is helpful to endorse respect for the decision and inquire about the patient’s reasons for continuing the pregnancy. Understanding the patient’s concerns may begin a conversation that will result in the patient accepting a plan for induction near 41 weeks’ gestation. If the patient insists on expectant management well beyond 41 weeks, the medical record should contain a summary of the clinician recommendation to induce labor at or before 41 weeks’ gestation and the patient’s preference for expectant management and her understanding of the decision’s risks.
Obstetricians and midwives constantly face the challenge of balancing the desire to avoid meddlesome interference in a pregnancy with the need to act to prevent adverse pregnancy outcomes. The challenge is daunting. A comprehensive meta-analysis of the benefit of induction of labor at or beyond term, estimated that 426 inductions would need to be initiated to prevent one perinatal death.2 From one perspective it is meddlesome to intervene on more than 400 women to prevent one perinatal death. However, substantial data indicate that expectant management of a well-dated pregnancy at 41 weeks’ gestation will result in adverse outcomes that likely could be prevented by induction of labor. If you ran an airline and could take an action to prevent one airplane crash for every 400 flights, you would likely move heaven and earth to try to prevent that disaster. Unless the patient strongly prefers expectant management, well-managed induction of labor at or before 41 weeks’ gestation is likely to reduce the rate of adverse pregnancy events and, hence, is warranted.
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