Study shows inducing women at 37 weeks can cut health risk
Inducing pregnant women once they reach 37 weeks can lower the chance of neonatal death, asphyxia and cerebral palsy, a study has suggested.
The research suggests the practice of proactive labour induction has improved outcomes for babies in Denmark, where a quarter of women pregnant beyond 37 weeks have labour induced.
Researchers found this corresponded with a simultaneous halving of stillbirths.
The study, which analysed 770,926 babies born in Denmark over a 13-year period, found the risk of neonatal death went down from 1.9 to one per 1,000 births from 2000 to 2012.
The risk of asphyxia decreased by 23pc from 2003 to 2012, while there was a decrease in the incidence rate of cerebral palsy by 26pc from 2002 to 2010.
Meanwhile, the proportion of infants born weighing more than 4.5kg - known as macrosomia - decreased by a third and peripheral nerve injury decreased by 43pc.
But the study also found that the risk of shoulder dystocia increased by 32pc.
Risk factors such as smoking, increased maternal age, first-time motherhood, multiple pregnancies and a higher body mass index were all taken into account in the study.
The research paper adds that awareness of the dangers relating to smoking grew during the period it analysed, corresponding with a significant reduction in pregnant smokers and contributing to the decrease in stillbirths but only marginally affecting the study.
While women are technically considered to be full-term at 37 weeks, most go into labour between 38 and 42 weeks, with current guidelines stating that uncomplicated pregnancies should be induced in weeks 41 to 42.
Professor Ojvind Lidegaard, from the University of Copenhagen and co-author of the study, said: "We have seen significant reductions in newborn asphyxia, neonatal mortality, macrosomia and peripheral nerve injuries. Another similar study we conducted recently also demonstrated a halving of stillbirths following the implementation of proactive labour induction practice."