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Scottish Study Finds 28 Percent of Induced Births Unnecessary

childbirth labor

A study by researchers at Aberdeen University of 17,000 births found that there was no medical explanation for over 28% of the induced labors.


“We were slightly surprised that it was as high as it was. It raises the question that there may be some unnecessary interventions and we are planning further studies.” -Tracy Humphrey, consultant midwife at Grampian NHS Board.

Of the 17,000 births studied, the researchers found that 32% of the women had been induced, and 28% of those inductions had no good reason, medical or otherwise, for performing the procedure.

The study, published in the Journal of Public Health, said that rates of obstetric interventions were rising, and that more research was needed to find out if the inductions were done with good reason.

“Further research is needed to identify the circumstances of induced labour where there are not good clinical reasons. If women are asking for induction because they are tired at the end of pregnancy, they may need more support, and encouragement to rest as much as possible, so that they can wait a bit longer.” – Mary Newburn, National Childbirth Trust

While the majority of the induced labors were for specific conditions (water breaking before labor, prolonged pregnancy, complications requiring a timed birth), the rate of unexplained inductions has some in the birth and labor field concerned.

“It raises the question that there may be some unnecessary interventions and we are planning further studies. The main debate about unnecessary interventions has focused on cesareans and we have forgotten about the other interventions that go on.” – Humphrey

One of our children was induced a month early because of pre-eclampsia, but I know of several other mothers that had an induced labor offered to them because the labor wasn’t progressing fast enough for the doctor. Not being a doctor myself, I don’t know if inducing those births were necessary, but after reading about this study, it sure does make me wonder…

Image: Raphael Goetter at Flickr under Creative Commons License


  1. 32% of women were induced — I’m not sure off the top of my head what the rates are in North America, but I think it’s higher than that. Induction in order to ‘speed labour’ is pretty routine.

    I’m surprised that they were surprised it was that high.

    And the remaining 23% of all labours that had medically appropriate inductions… there is also much questioning about whether even those are necessary. Things like ‘prolonged pregnancy’, doctors are quick to induce if a women dares to go a day over her EDD, even though normal pregnancy can be 2 weeks later and sometimes even more. If there are no signs of degradation of the placenta, then there is no need to induce… and usually, there are no signs. Usually, they’re just worried about the baby growing ‘too big’, which is ludicrous.

    In other words, it’s great that they’re questioning unnecessary inductions, those with no medical reason at all. They just need to also question whether some of the ‘medical reasons’ are really necessary either.

    For the record, my first baby was induced when he was “overdue”, the doctor ruptured my membranes at a routine check-up without telling me first.

    My second baby was going to be born at home in water, but we ended up having to induce 2 weeks early because I developed sudden high blood pressure — not pre-eclampsia, but a definite consideration for getting her out before things did turn dangerous.

    So I have experienced both sides of things — the induction that was medically necessary, and the one that most definitely was not!

  2. My first was induced because my OB was going on vacation the next day. I was 9 days late, but I know many let you go further than that, and I was in light labor on my own. I really think that left to myself I would have delivered the next day anyhow. Should have stood up for myself better.

  3. I am a result of an induced labor. My mother’s OB was going on vacation the week I was supposed to be born. I am 36, so this isn’t a new thing.

  4. My wife is a midwife here in Australia and from what she’s told me, it seems like a pretty similar story down here. Before Christmas, one woman asked to be induced unnecessarily so that she could be home for Christmas. There were huge complications as a result – she almost died.

  5. I was the result of an induced labor. I was born May 29th but wasn’t due until June 10th but the doctor was going on vacation and pretty much wouldn’t take no for an answer. I’m 16 now and I have Bi-Polar and sometimes wonder if it could be from that.

  6. I’m from Scotland and find the rate of unexplained inductions disappointing. Yes, of course there are times when medical staff have to intervene for the safety of mother and baby, but 28% for unexplained inductions is way too high. Women need to be more prepared through course such as hypnobirthing and birth plans. Not only would this empower women and make the birthing experience more positive it would save the NHS money. Anyone interested in a birthing plan for a natural birth can find my plan here – http://www.mindfulmum.co.uk/2010/01/how-to-write-a-good-birth-plan/

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