In a recent study published in the open-access journal PLOS Medicine, researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, U.K., led by Ipek Gurol-Urganci, have made a significant discovery about pregnancy health.
The study focuses on the benefits of inducing labour at 39 weeks of pregnancy, particularly for women from socioeconomically deprived areas.
The findings suggest that early labour induction could help reduce inequities in adverse perinatal outcomes, including stillbirths, neonatal deaths, preterm births, and other birth complications. This article aims to explain the study’s key findings in an easy-to-understand manner for high school students.
Perinatal outcomes refer to the health of both the mother and the baby during childbirth and the immediate postpartum period. Unfortunately, in England, women from deprived areas and ethnic minorities have been observed to experience more adverse perinatal outcomes.
The issue has sparked a significant discussion regarding the potential benefits of providing labour induction at 39 weeks for low-risk pregnancies, considering factors such as ethnicity or socioeconomic status.
For the study, researchers analysed a vast database comprising data about maternal admissions in the English National Health Service from January 2018 to March 2021.
In their research, the investigators concentrated on a cohort of 501,072 women experiencing low-risk pregnancies who had not yet delivered at 39 weeks of gestation. Among this group, 47,352 (9.5%) women had labour induced at 39 weeks.
The study results revealed that among women who had labour induced at 39 weeks, 3.3% experienced adverse perinatal outcomes. In comparison, 3.6% of women who continued with expectant management had similar outcomes.
After making necessary adjustments, the researchers found that inducing labour at 39 weeks offered a small benefit in reducing adverse perinatal outcomes in low-risk pregnancies. Specifically, 360 inductions were associated with the avoidance of one adverse outcome.
Interestingly, the study indicated that the benefits of labour induction were more significant for women from socioeconomically deprived areas and women with no previous pregnancies.
It suggests that early labour induction could be a valuable intervention to reduce the disparities in adverse perinatal outcomes experienced by different groups of women.
Co-author Prof. Asma Khalil highlighted the need for improved data collection on the indications for labour induction and the presence of risk factors.
Researchers can gain a better understanding by gathering detailed, accurate, and complete data from each maternity unit at the national level.
The recent study conducted by Ipek Gurol-Urganci and her colleagues at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine sheds light on the potential benefits of early labour induction for women with low-risk pregnancies.
By inducing labour at 39 weeks, healthcare providers may have a valuable tool to reduce the disparities in adverse perinatal outcomes, especially among women from socioeconomically deprived areas and those with no previous pregnancies.