MUMS-TO-BE who are induced at 40 weeks rather than allowed to continue with their pregnancy are less likely to suffer a stillbirth or new born baby death, a study has found.
Researchers claim carrying out an additional 1,040 inductions of labour for women who have reached 40 completed weeks would prevent the death of one baby.
In a study of around one million pregnancies, Edinburgh University’s maternal and fetal health team found stillbirths and neonatal deaths occurred in 0.08 per cent of cases after labour was electively induced compared to 0.18 per cent of births when the pregnancy was allowed to continue.
Women whose labour was artificially triggered at 40 weeks were also less likely to need a Caesarean section than those who waited to go into labour.
But the researchers warned that while survival rates were better for babies when labour was induced, admission to neonatal care units was also higher in these pregnancies.
Baby charities gave a mixed reaction to the findings with future mums being warned about the possible downside of being induced, including increased pain and a more traumatic birth due to the sudden onset of faster contractions.
Mary Newburn, head of research and information at National Childbirth Trust, said: “The known effects associated with induction of labour for mothers and babies lead us to sound a note of caution at the prospect of more routine use of this medical procedure.
“This suggests that carrying out an additional 1,040 inductions of labour for women who have reached 40 weeks may prevent the death of one baby, but seven more would need to be admitted to special care.
“This alone results in mothers and babies being separated at a crucial time for skin to skin contact, bonding and establishment of breastfeeding.”
The research, published in the British Medical Journal, looked at survival rates for births which took place between 37 and 41 weeks of pregnancy.
Team leader, Dr Sarah Stock said the findings were not a reason for all women to be induced at 40 weeks.
She said: “Doctors worry that inducing healthy pregnant women before 41 weeks increases the risk of Caesarean section. Our study suggests that there is no increased risk of caesarean with induction at any time from 39 weeks onwards.”
A spokeswoman for the stillbirth and neonatal death charity Sands said: “Sands hears all the time from mothers whose babies died suddenly and unexpectedly at or after 40 weeks, and who believe that if only their baby had been delivered earlier, they would have lived. The pain of that loss is devastating.
“This brings important new information to bear on the management of pregnant women.”
Around 400 babies are stillborn in Scotland every year, with a third happening near term.