New research appearing in a past issue of Obestrics and Gynecology is confirming what many have long suspected. Induction of labor can double a mother’s chance of delivering by C-section. In a study that focused on reasons for labor induction and labor outcomes, mothers were 2.6% more likely to take a trip to the operating room for the birth of their baby.

Induction of labor involves administration of intravenous medications, or medications placed into the vagina to start contractions, and soften/dilate the cervix. In the past, inducing a patient for labor was done only for medical situations in which the baby needed to be delivered due to medical complications in which it is not safe to continue the pregnancy. Recently however, more and more women are requesting labor inductions for a variety of new reasons, and it appears that physicians are complying. (Even though I don’t know why…)

New reasons for requesting an induction include having a delivery that is convenient for the birth partner or coach–if they need to be out of town for example-and for the mother’s personal comfort. I think women as a whole have begun to view child birth much like they have everything else in society–it’s all about convenience.

Dr. Deborah Ehrenthal, director of women’s health programs at Christiana Care Health System in Newark, Del., and an assistant professor of family medicine at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia said “We need to understand it’s not without risk to be doing this,” Ehrenthal said of some elective inductions and the higher risk of C-sections. There are significant risk to moms for C-sections.”

Additional research by physicians at U.S. National Institutes of Health also compared induction rate increases over the last decade and a half. In 1992, only 9.5% of all deliveries were induced. By 2006 those numbers had jumped to 22.6% and now the United States has topped that number with nearly 32% of all deliveries starting with an induction. Inductions are not recommended for babies less than 39 weeks according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, but some inductions are being done as early as 37 weeks in some cases. Having a C-section also increases your chances of having subsequent Cesarean Sections in the future.

Other risks associated with C-Sections can include higher infection rates, difficulty controlling pain and bonding immediately after birth. Babies can also see difficulties transitioning to extrauterine life and have difficulty breathing temporarily. Risks are associated with attempting a vaginal delivery after a Cesarean section and should be considered with any pregnancies later in life. Each case should be evaluated individually and the best decision made to provide both mother and baby with the ideal outcome.