ALMOST a third of Irish mothers have their labour induced, or started artificially.
The rate of pregnancy induction here is 31% despite guidelines from the World Health Organisation (WHO) that "no geographic region should have rates of induced labour over 10%".
Those in Leinster counties outside of Dublin have a 40% chance of having their labour induced, while mothers in Dublin have a 25% chance, and those in Connaught and Ulster 24%.
Almost half of these were induced because the baby was late, or they had gone past their due date.
Some 10% of those had their labour induced because they had high blood pressure during pregnancy, and 16% did so because their waters broke early but they had not started labour.
The level of induction amongst non-nationals is 23%, a third lower than the rate for Irish women.
Younger women are more likely to have an induction with a rate of 37% for those aged between 15 and 24, compared to 27% for those aged from 25-34.
More than half of labours were inducted by breaking the water — when the membranes containing the foetus and amniotic fluid are ruptured artificially in the hope that labour may then be stimulated. A further 40% were through an oxytocin drip — a drug containing hormones which helps start contractions.
Waterford Regional Hospital has the highest induction rate (38%) compared to Wexford General Hospital which had the lowest at 8%.
Prof Fergal Malone, Chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecologists at the Royal College of Surgeons, said it’s correct to say it’s better to let nature takes it course as long as it’s safe to do so.
"Spontaneous labour is faster and more efficient, and more likely to lead to a natural birth. If there is some sort of complication, or the mother is well past the due date — more than two weeks past — the chance of a still birth goes up very, very quickly. That would clearly be a disaster. Letting someone to go into 43 weeks, the number of still births will really start to skyrocket."
He said that some women get inductions for social, rather than medical reasons, what he referred to as "social inductions".
"I don’t deny that that happens from time to time, but what most doctors and midwives would suggest is that if the cervix was already open and favourable, there is no downside.
"If, on the other hand, I had someone say ‘I don’t want to deliver on the weekend can you get things moving now’, and I faced a closed cervix, it would not be a great ideal to induce that woman. It’s more likely to be a long, slow labour and the risk of c-section increases."