According to the research, not many of the common reasons for induction are evidence based. People are feared into induction too often unnecessarily. For a surprising number of conditions, there has been no proof of the benefit or effectiveness of labor induction but actually have been shown to cause more harm - like suspected big baby, being labeled as high risk by your age alone, isolated ow amniotic fluid, and intrauterine growth restriction before term. The benefits of imminent birth must outweigh risks of induction of labor and all that entails. That is when mama’s or baby’s life is in jeopardy and imminent birth is life saving as compared to possible dangers of continued pregnancy.
Thanksgiving, Christmas or any holiday are certainly not complications of pregnancy. Rates of induction continues to skyrocket, remarkably so in the days leading up to the holidays, with US rates in general, way above the rates from even 20 - 30 years ago, but our outcomes are continuing to get worse! A large amount of research demonstrates the risks far outweigh the benefits of induction especially when mom and baby are healthy. Elective induction without a well-supported medical reason clearly increases risks - for babies especially before 39 weeks. Induction before 41 weeks significantly increases chance of having a cesarean birth, major abdominal surgery with all its associated risks - especially for first time vaginal birthers and having a cervix that is unripe - not ready. Induction also greatly increases the chance of needing pain relief like epidurals which have their own risks for both mom and baby. For example, induction of labor is absolutely appropriate in worsening gestational hypertension or preeclampsia, if mama or baby has a serious illness in which prompt treatment is needed after birth. But even in pregnancies that go beyond 41-42 weeks, there are pros and cons, potential risks and benefits to watchful waiting versus labor induction, which must take into account mama’s preferences, knowing that she has medical legal right to autonomy and declining induction of labor.
IUGR is not an evidenced based reason to induce labor. There are a variety of known causes of true IUGR (intrauterine growth restriction), like high blood pressure, heart/lung/kidney disease, diabetes, malnutrition, serious anemia, cigarette smoking, drug and alcohol abuse, certain infections, and fetal abnormalities. But do know that in well dated pregnancies, the majority (80-85%!) of babies identified as having IUGR are simply constitutionally small but healthy. They are just weighing below the tenth percentile. All of my four babies were off the growth charts diagnosed small for gestational age (SGA) but I and my husband are not tall and I simply make six pounders who consistently grew but stayed way below average in growth by height and weight even as kids.
Oligohydramnios - low amniotic fluid, by itself (not associated with other problems such as preeclampsia or birth defects) is also not a reason for induction as it is not associated with increased risk of poor outcomes, nor backed by the research. Actually, the main risk of low amniotic fluid at term in a healthy pregnancy is induction and cesarean as a result of the induction, and potentially the risk of lower birth weight of a baby born too early. There is no evidence that inducing labor for isolated oligohydramnios has any beneficial impact on mother or infant outcomes, but rather the risks of induction far outweigh the alleged benefits. A large body of research indicates that ultrasound measurement of low amniotic fluid is a poor predictor of actual amniotic fluid volume, so potentially inaccurate assessments dictate risky recommendations. Amniotic fluid in an otherwise healthy pregnancy lessens in the few weeks before birth, and post term related to decreased swallowing and urine output by baby. But it is often related to dehydration, seen more in summer months. If a mama drinks 2 - 2.5 liters of water daily she is likely to increase the amount of amniotic fluid volume, and she can up her amount if a low amount was detected on ultrasound.
Induction at 39-41 weeks of pregnancy is based on the Arrive study, which has flaws and goes against common sense as well as all the science & research up until now. The American College of Nurse Midwives does not support it and continues to advocate for spontaneous labor & healthy normal physiologic birth as well as a women’s right to self determination. For a thorough analysis of the the Arrive study on which these recommendations are based here are a few resources:
- evidencebasedbirth.com/evidence-on-inducing-labor-for-going-past-your-due-date/ - evidencebasedbirth.com/arrive - midwife.org/ACNM-responds-to-release-of-arrive-trial-study-results - sarahbuckley.com/should-every-mother-be-induced-the-arrive-trial - Lamaze.org/connecting-the-dots/parsing-the-arrive-trial-should-first-time-parents-be-routinely-induced-at-39-weeks.
Inducing labor or cesarean for suspected big baby in pregnancy isn't evidence based care and is potentially harmful. Estimated fetal weights based on ultrasound or abdominal assessment are notoriously inaccurate. They do not account for the ability of the pelvis to stretch, the power of mobility and gravity, baby's head’s ability to mould to navigate through the birth canal.
Especially because of the inaccuracy of estimated fetal weights, it is not evidence based care to induce labor or send you to the operating room for this alone. It is a fear based practice and has way more risks than benefits and again, not backed by the research. Time to stand firm. Don’t let them scare you. Fear increases your stress and negatively impacts your labor. You have the right to decline and even switch providers to those more calm, supportive of your choices and who practice evidence based care. Even if baby is a good size, baby’s not yet fused skull bones can mould to fit through the pelvis which can stretch and increase capacity in asymmetrical upright and mobile positions, which also work with gravity. Plenty of mamas birth ‘big’ babies when given the opportunity and support. You have your provider there also as a lifeguard in case of need, like to relieve the uncommon but potentially serious complication of stuck shoulders called shoulder dystocia which can also happen in smaller babies. It’s certainly easier to push out smaller babies, and you can do your part by staying off sugar foods, refined carbohydrates, and juice. But no, don’t succumb to this routine practice of induction or scheduled cesarean for suspected big baby (macrosomia). I have to get real with you to drive a point. Despite all the money and technology of modern US medical and hospital care, the United States ranks the worse among developed countries in terms of birth outcome statistics - our maternal mortality and morbidity rates are on the rise like no other country, and rates of neonatal morbidity and mortality and birth trauma are also horrendous. The countries who have best outcome stats are countries that have more midwifery care that services the low risk healthy population who benefits most by not disturbing physiologic birth when all is well, leaving the obstetricians to provide care to those who have higher risk conditions, complications and need lifesaving medical and surgical care. When high risk care is applied to healthy low risk people, we see more problems, we contribute to the horrid outcome stats of our country. So let baby come when they are supposed to come and don't let anyone pressure you into an unnecessary induction. Even back in 2013, a listening to mothers survey showed that 4 out of 10 mothers (41%) said their care provider tried to induce their labor. You have the right to say no and switch providers to those who support the natural process of letting labor start on its own when all is well. Rates of routine unnecessary inductions are on the rise - from 9% of births in 1989 to 31.37% of births in 2020, which increases risks - including failed induction as the body is not ready, & unnecessary cesarean with all that entails. Remember we are not in control or as wise as the greater intelligence that designed the process. Giving birth is such a lesson in surrendering to that greater power that transcends us all.
What can you do? Empower yourself with resources! Say No!! Prepare like a boss!