Labor Induction Rates Decline After Steady Rise

After rising steadily for two decades, overall labor induction rates  declined between 2010 and 2011, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), dropping from 23.8 percent to 23.3 percent. Though rates were rising overall, labor inductions between 34 and 38 weeks gestation began to fall between 2006 and 2012. According to the CDC, for weeks 34-36, inductions dropped 4 percent, and for 37-38 weeks inductions dropped 12 percent.

“Changes in induction of labor,” said the CDC in its report, “particularly at 35-38 weeks, may be associated with changes in obstetric practice, as research has demonstrated greater risks of morbidity and mortality among infants delivered during these weeks compared with those delivered later in pregnancy.”

Shortening Pregnancies

Between the 1980s and 2006, the length of pregnancies became increasingly short, with the proportion of infants born before 39 weeks of gestation increasing 60 percent and the percentage of  infants born at 39 or more weeks declining more than 20 percent. These numbers, according to the CDC, have been associated with the use of cesarean delivery (C-section) and the induction of labor prior to full term, the rate of which more than doubled between 1990 and  2010 (9.6 percent to 23.8 percent)

Among age groups, patterns varied, according to the CDC. From 2006 to 2012, while induction rates at 38 weeks of gestation declined among women under 20, rates of induction at 35 to 37 weeks increased. However, for women 40 and over, rates were unchanged for gestational weeks 35 to 38.

Induction Rates Varied by Race

The CDC also found that between 2006 and 2012, induction rates declined among non-Hispanic white women (19 percent), non-Hispanic black women (3 percent), and Hispanic women (7 percent). Among non-Hispanic white women, the rates of induction at 38 weeks dropped from 25.9 percent to 21.1 percent. For shorter gestational periods, changes were less consistent, with induction rates among non-Hispanic white women decreasing consistently (6 to 11 percent) for weeks 35, 36, and 37, rates for Hispanic women unchanged among the three weeks, and rates among non-Hispanic black women increasing for weeks 35 and 36 but remaining unchanged for week 37.