From the Journals

ACOG: Avoid inductions before 39 weeks unless medically necessary



Babies should not be delivered before 39 0/7 weeks’ gestation by means besides spontaneous vaginal delivery, in the absence of medical indications for an earlier delivery.

premature infant in incubator Herjua/Thinkstock

“Although there are specific indications for delivery before 39 weeks of gestation, a nonmedically indicated early-term delivery should be avoided,” wrote the authors of the new opinion, developed by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists committee on obstetric practice and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine.

The opinion, which replaces a 2013 statement, clarifies that their recommendations include avoiding cesarean delivery, labor induction, and cervical ripening before 39 0/7 weeks of gestation, unless a medical indication exists for earlier delivery.

The new opinion statement relied, in part, on a recent systematic review finding that late-preterm and early-term children do not fare as well as do term-delivered children in a variety of cognitive and educational domains. The opinion statement acknowledges that it’s not clear why children delivered earlier are showing performance difficulties and that it is possible that medical indications for an earlier delivery contributed to the differences.

Immediate outcomes for neonates delivered in the late preterm and early term period also are worse, compared with those delivered at term, according to several studies cited in the opinion. For example, composite morbidity was higher for infants delivered at both 37 and 38 weeks gestation, compared with those delivered at 39 weeks, with adjusted odds ratios for the composite outcome of 2.1 and 1.5, respectively (N Engl J Med. 2009 Jan 8;360[2]:111-20).

And lung maturity alone should not guide delivery, wrote the authors of the opinion. “Because nonrespiratory morbidities also are increased in early-term deliveries, documentation of fetal pulmonary maturity does not justify an early nonmedically indicated delivery,” they said, adding that physicians should not perform amniocentesis to determine lung maturity in an effort to guide delivery timing.

Because intrapartum demise remains a risk as long as a woman is pregnant, the potential for adverse neonatal outcomes with early delivery has to be balanced against the risk of stillbirth with continued gestation, the opinion authors acknowledged. But, they said, this question has been addressed by “multiple studies using national population level data,” which show that “even as the gestational age at term has increased in response to efforts to reduce early elective delivery, these efforts have not adversely affected stillbirth rates nationally or even in states with the greatest reductions in early elective delivery.”

Formal programs to reduce nonmedically indicated early-term deliveries have been successful. For example, the state of South Carolina achieved a reduction of almost 50% in nonmedically indicated early-term deliveries over the course of just 1 year. The South Carolina Birth Outcomes Initiative led a collaborative effort to institute a “hard-stop” policy against nonmedically indicated early-term deliveries that resulted in an absolute 4.7% decrease in late-preterm birth during 2011-2012. Similar efforts in Oregon and Ohio have reported significant reductions as well, with no increases in adverse neonatal outcomes.

Various policy approaches have been tried to achieve a reduction in nonmedically indicated late-preterm and early-term birth. These range from awareness raising and education, to “soft-stop” policies in which health care providers agree not to deliver before 39 weeks without medical indication, to “hard-stop” policies in which hospitals prohibit the nonindicated deliveries. In one comparative outcomes study, the hard-stop policy was the most effective, with a drop from 8.2% to 1.7% in nonindicated early deliveries, but the soft-stop policy also produced a decrease from 8.4% to 3.3% (P = .007 and .025, respectively). The educational approach didn’t produce a significant drop in nonmedically indicated early deliveries (Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2010 Nov;203[5]:449.e1-6).

In a separate, preexisting statement (Obstet Gynecol. 2019;133:e151-5), ACOG has outlined the management of medically indicated late-preterm and early-term deliveries and has developed an app ( as a decision tool for indicated deliveries.

Examples cited by the current opinion statement authors of medical indications for early delivery include maternal factors such as preeclampsia, gestational hypertension, and poorly controlled diabetes. Placentation problems, fetal growth restriction, and prior cesarean deliveries also may warrant earlier delivery, as may a host of other complications. If an earlier delivery is planned, the committee authors recommend full discussion with the patient and clear documentation of the indications and discussion.

SOURCE: Obstet Gynecol. 2019 Feb;133[2]:e156-63.

Recommended Reading

Ehlers-Danlos syndrome: Increased IUGR risk reported
MDedge ObGyn
Umbilical cord milking tied to severe IVH in very premature neonates
MDedge ObGyn
One postdelivery antibiotic dose nearly halves infection in operative delivery
MDedge ObGyn
Sildenafil associated with persistent pulmonary hypertension in neonates with early IUGR
MDedge ObGyn
Dental device borrowed from sports world no help in pushing
MDedge ObGyn
Delayed cord clamping didn’t drop maternal hemoglobin in term cesarean deliveries
MDedge ObGyn
Combination model predicts imminent preeclampsia
MDedge ObGyn
Induction at 41 weeks may cut perinatal complications for low-risk pregnancies
MDedge ObGyn
Insulin-treated diabetes in pregnancy carries preterm risk
MDedge ObGyn
Masterclass: Marlene Freeman on treating bipolar disorder in women
MDedge ObGyn