Induction recommended for women still pregnant at 41 weeks

The normal term for pregnancy is considered to be 40 weeks, but some babies arrive earlier and some later. Photograph: Márton Mónus/EPA

(Sarah Boseley/ The Guardian) — Inducing birth for women whose pregnancy lasts to 41 weeks could reduce the death toll from stillbirths, say experts, following publication of the results of an important trial in which six babies died after spending longer in the womb.

The results of the trial in Sweden, revealed last month in the Guardian, may change practice around the world. They confirm what experience and smaller studies have suggested – that there is a small increased risk of stillbirth for babies after 41 weeks’ gestation. The trial was stopped early after five babies of women who were more than 41 weeks’ pregnant were stillborn and one died shortly after birth.

Dr Sarah Stock, honorary consultant in maternal and foetal medicine at the University of Edinburgh, said it would now be hard not to offer induction to every woman at 41 weeks. “This study adds to the growing body of evidence that induction of labour, at or beyond term gestation, is safer for babies, without increasing caesarean section or other complications for mothers,” she said. (…)

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