Induce or labour naturally?

After 42 weeks, the PNMR (perinatal mortality rate) doubles, and after 43 weeks it has tripled. Many studies have looked into how we can monitor women after this time to try and pick out those that really do warrant induction, leaving the others to labour naturally.

This has included surveillance techniques such as: kick charts, fetal heart monitoring, ultrasound scans to check for liquor volume, and 'doppler' assessment of blood flow in the cord.

In summary, none of these is perfect, and even with intensive monitoring, such as a scan at 42 weeks, then twice weekly fetal heart monitoring, one baby in 1000 will die before it is born.

The underlying problem here is that the placenta starts to show signs of 'ageing' as pregnancy progresses, and eventually doesn't work as well as it did previously.

These are the reasons why, in general, we recommend induction of labour around 42 weeks. Inducing labour before 41 weeks can lead to problems in labour.

The cervix may not be ready to dilate and earlier induction does carry an increased risk of caesarean section for slow labour or 'failed' induction. After 41 weeks it is unlikely that induction of labour will alter the final mode of delivery. 

What are My Chances of Going into Labour Naturally After 40 Weeks?

Actually, very good! The above-mentioned study in Nottingham found that, of women at 40 weeks, 65% labour spontaneously within the next week. Of those at 10 days over their dates, 60% will enter spontaneous labour within the next 3 days. 

So it is worth trying to get induction as close as possible to 42 weeks, giving you every chance to labour spontaneously. Most obstetricians would not find this an unreasonable request if you find yourself in the antenatal clinic at 41 weeks!

Join other women in the discussion on pregnancy symptoms, labor, and postpartum in our pregnancy forum.


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