The induction of labour in older mums

The induction of labour in older mums

The media often reports on the trend of the older mum. Unlike a generation or two ago, very few women in 2017 get married at 18 and have a baby at 19. Women have more career opportunities, cheaper travel opportunities and for many younger women it just isn’t the right time to have a baby. 

At Mater Mothers’ Hospitals we see many mums aged 35, 40 and older. While 40 is the new 30, a 40 year old expectant mum sometimes faces a more difficult road ahead than a 30 year old. 

For any expectant mum we often discuss the induction of labour towards the end of a pregnancy. Almost-mums may feel big and tired and many have really just had enough by this point and are keen to have it all over with. However, the major clinical reason to consider induction of labour near the end of pregnancy, and it’s something that isn’t often talked about, is to help reduce the risk of stillbirth.

When my mum had me there were no ultrasounds and a mum’s due date could only be calculated based on period dates. Many women, like my mum, could go well past their due date and be much more overdue than anyone realised.

For very overdue babies there is the risk that the baby may die before it is born. Unrecognised very-overdue babies might explain why more babies were stillborn a generation or two ago. 

We don’t know exactly why this happens, but it might have something to do with how the placenta functions when the pregnancy is very prolonged.  

This risk of stillbirth seems to be higher when there are pregnancy problems that affect the placenta, like the elevated blood pressure condition called pre-eclampsia or when babies are small. Being an older mum also increases the risk.   

But even in pregnancies where there isn’t a problem with blood pressure, or a small baby, older mums have a higher risk of stillbirth than younger mums.

Many pregnant women get told during their pregnancy to try and avoid an induction, even if the baby is overdue, because it can lead to more intervention during the birth.

It is important to stress that studies tell us that caesareans are no more common in women who are induced. Induction doesn’t mean you have to have an epidural, or that you won’t be able to breastfeed.

If you are an older mum-to-be ask some questions of your obstetrician, learn about what is involved in induction of labour and whether this is the right thing for you and your baby.

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