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Delivering moms at 39 weeks lowers C-section, high blood pressure rates

Photo of Suneet P. Chauhan, M.D., PHOTO CREDIT: McGovern Medical School, UTHealth
Suneet P. Chauhan, M.D. PHOTO CREDIT: McGovern Medical School, UTHealth

HOUSTON – (Aug. 10, 2018) – Healthy first-time mothers whose pregnancies were induced at 39 weeks were less likely to deliver by cesarean section and had significantly lower rates of high blood pressure disorders of pregnancy, said researchers at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth).

The findings of the major study funded by the National Institutes of Health were published earlier this week in the New England Journal of Medicine. Co-investigators included Suneet P. Chauhan, M.D., professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth.

The study enrolled over 6,000 pregnant women at 41 hospitals participating in the Maternal-Fetal Medicine Units Network, which includes McGovern Medical School and its hospital partners, Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital and Harris Health Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital. Healthy first-time mothers were randomized to be induced in the 39th week of pregnancy or to continue pregnancy until labor ensued or there was a reason to be delivered.

“Along with the lower rate of cesarean delivery and lower risk of developing hypertensive disease of pregnancy, there were four other significant findings,” Chauhan said. “Newborns were also less likely to have respiratory problems in the nursery; mothers had a shorter duration of stay in the hospital; they rated their pain during childbirth to be significantly less; and they rated their sense of ‘personal control’ to be higher with induction.”

The study also found that infants born to women at 39 weeks were no more likely to experience severe complications.

“Prior to this study, there was concern that induction of labor would increase the chance of cesarean delivery,” said study co-author Uma M. Reddy, M.D., of the Pregnancy and Perinatology Branch of NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). “Our analysis suggests that elective induction at 39 weeks is associated with a lower rate of cesarean delivery and does not increase the risk of major complications for newborns.”

The study found that the cesarean rate for women induced in the 39th week was 18.6 percent compared to 22.2 percent for women in the expectant management group. Blood pressure disorders were 9.1 percent for the induced women compared to 14.1 percent for the other group.

The researchers estimate that one cesarean delivery could be avoided for every 28 low-risk, first-time mothers who are induced at 39 weeks.

 - Adapted from an NIH news release

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