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Should You Induce Before 40 Weeks? AZ Obstetrician Answers

Author: Stephen David Frausto, M.D., FACOG

There was a growing trend in obstetric health care to elective inductions before 40 weeks gestation. As Emily Oster writes for Slate, “In 1990, fewer than 10 percent of births followed medical induction of labor; by 2009, this number had risen to 25 percent. This increase has occurred across the board, not just for babies who are overdue. In 1990, only 7 percent of births at 39 weeks of pregnancy were induced, but 23 percent were induced by 2009.”

The facts are indisputable. Elective inductions were on the rise. Recent recommendations from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and World Health Organizations encourage elective inductions be delayed until after 39-40 weeks gestation.

Hospitals and physicians have adopted policies to ensure compliance with these recommendations.

Even though the last weeks of pregnancy can be difficult for moms with increased aches and pains and difficulty sleeping, these few weeks are very important for the developing infant.

Elective Induction vs Induction for Medical Indications. 

There are a number of valid medical reasons to induce before 40 weeks. If your obstetrician has reason to believe that carrying to full term could put you or your baby’s health at risk, then an induction for medical indications may be the right decision. Your obstetrician will discuss the risks and benefits of this early induction.

At 41 weeks gestation risks to the infant increase and an induction at this stage is medically indicated.

An elective induction because the mom is tired, sick of being pregnant, obstetrician going on vacation or her mother is scheduled to fly in for the birth are not valid reasons to deliver before 40 weeks gestation.

All those annoying “Braxton Hicks” contractions you feel in the last weeks of pregnancy really do serve a purpose. Be patient, and try to enjoy those last weeks.

Please do not request an induction prior to 40 weeks if there are no medical indications.

Your obstetrician is looking out for the health of your infant.

Why Not Induce Before 40 Weeks?

  • Babies inducted before 39 completed weeks are at increased risk for “breathing problems, infection, and admission to a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU),” reports Childbirth Connection.
  • Women who are induced are more likely to request an epidural for pain. Epidurals include their own set of risk factors.
  • Induction may increase risk of having to have cesarean section.

Should I Be Wary of Having An Induction?

Not necessarily. As I stated above, there are plenty of valid reasons to be induced prior to 40 weeks. If you’re looking for an obstetrician to provide care throughout your pregnancy, don’t be timid in asking for their opinion about induction before 40 weeks. You have a right to know how your obstetrician approaches this issue – and any other issue – that could affect you and your baby’s health.

On the other end of the spectrum, if your baby has made no attempt to enter the world on her own at 41 weeks, your obstetrician may suggest an induction. This medically indicated induction at this stage could actually help lower certain risk factors.

Looking for a Valley-Area Obstetrician?

To schedule an appointment with an obstetrician in the Valley area, contact Arizona Associates for Women’s Health. Offices in Mesa and Tempe, AZ. Learn more about our obstetric services.

Please consult with your physician before undertaking any form of medical treatment or adopting any exercise program or dietary guidelines.

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