TUESDAY, Feb. 22, 2011 (HealthDay News) -- The increasingly commonplace decision by pregnant women and their doctors to induce labor for convenience rather than for medical necessity entails some health risks to both mother and child, research suggests.
The new report, which highlights the negative impact of what is known as "elective induction" for first-time mothers, indicates that going that route increases the chances of a Cesarean delivery, while also boosting the mother's risk for greater loss of blood and a longer post-delivery hospital stay.
"The benefits of a procedure should always outweigh the risks," study author Dr. Christopher Glantz, professor of maternal-fetal medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center, said in a university news release. "If there aren't any medical benefits to inducing labor, it is hard to justify doing it electively when we know it increases the risks for the mother and the baby."
Glantz and his colleagues report their findings in the February issue of the Journal of Reproductive Medicine.
Elective induction has for the most part become a routine aspect of obstetric care, researchers noted.
But the authors caution that the decision is not without consequences, as the process does not unfold in the same manner as natural labor.
By analyzing the medical charts of 485 women who gave birth to their first child at the University of Rochester Medical Center in 2007, investigators found that about one-third of those who elected to have labor induced had to undergo a Cesarean section compared with just one-fifth of those who were not induced.
C-sections are considered major surgery and carry the risk of infection, complications and additional surgeries.
What's more, 88 additional in-hospital days are logged for every 100 women who choose to undergo an elective induction vs. women who go into labor spontaneously, the research team found.
In addition, babies born after induced labor appeared to face a higher risk for needing oxygen following delivery and special care in the neonatal intensive care unit.
The study authors noted that women who had previously given birth might not suffer the same negative consequences.
"If you've delivered once before, your body knows the drill and can do it again," said Glantz.
For more on elective induction, visit the California Pacific Medical Center.