Conference Coverage

Is routine induction of labor in a healthy pregnancy at 39 weeks reasonable?



Is routine induction of labor in a healthy pregnancy at 39 weeks’ gestation a sensible thing to do? Aaron B. Caughey, MD, PhD, discussed this in a video at the annual clinical and scientific meeting of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Vidyard Video

In a healthy pregnancy, with no medical indications for induction of labor, 39-40 weeks’ gestation is a time when there is a relatively low risk of stillbirth, although the risk is not zero, Dr. Caughey explained. The same is true for neonatal death. This gestational age is a time when there is a low risk for respiratory complications and a low risk for meconium.

“This might be a nice time to have a baby,” said Dr. Caughey, professor and chair of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Oregon Health & Science University, Portland. “The trade-off is intervention. Don’t you increase the risk of C-sections?”

Actually, numerous retrospective studies have shown that there is either no difference or a decreased rate of C-sections with induction of labor at 39-40 weeks’ gestation, compared with expectant management.

These findings led to a prospective, randomized study by William A. Grobman, MD, and associates for the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Maternal-Fetal Medicine Units Network called the ARRIVE trial (N Engl J Med. 2018;379:513-23). In that trial, the investigators randomized 3,062 women to induction of labor and 3,044 to expectant management. A significantly lower percentage of women in the induction of labor group underwent C-section than did women randomized to expectant management: 19% vs. 22% (relative risk, 0.84; P less than .001) – that is, 16% fewer C-sections. Also, 36% fewer women in the induction of labor group experienced preeclampsia. No significant differences were found between the two groups in terms of neonatal outcomes.

However, this is just one study, Dr. Caughey noted. What does is mean for a local community hospital? What does it mean for a busy private obstetrics practice?

Watch this video for his answer.

Next Article: