Labor induction versus expectant management for postterm pregnancies: a systematic review with meta-analysis

Obstet Gynecol. 2003 Jun;101(6):1312-8. doi: 10.1016/s0029-7844(03)00342-9.


Objective: To compare routine labor induction with expectant management for patients who reach or exceed 41 weeks' gestation.

Data sources: Computerized databases, references in published studies, and textbook chapters in all languages were used to identify randomized controlled trials (RCTs) evaluating induction and expectant management of labor for postterm pregnancies.

Methods of study selection: We identified RCTs that compared induction and expectant management for uncomplicated, singleton, live pregnancies of at least 41 weeks' gestation and evaluated at least one of the following: perinatal mortality, mode of delivery, meconium-stained fluid, meconium aspiration syndrome, meconium below the cords, fetal heart rate (FHR) abnormalities during labor, cesarean deliveries for FHR abnormalities, abnormal Apgar scores, and neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) admissions. The primary outcomes assessed were cesarean delivery rate and perinatal mortality.

Tabulation, integration, and results: Sixteen studies met inclusion criteria for this review. For each study with binary outcomes, an odds ratio (OR) with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) was calculated for selected outcomes. Estimates of ORs for dichotomous outcomes were calculated using fixed and random-effects models. Homogeneity was tested across the studies. Compared with women allocated to expectant management, those who underwent labor induction had lower cesarean delivery rates (20.1% versus 22.0%) (OR 0.88; 95% CI 0.78, 0.99). Although subjects whose labor was induced experienced a lower perinatal mortality rate (0.09% versus 0.33%) (OR 0.41; 95% CI 0.14, 1.18), this difference was not statistically significant. Similarly, no significant differences were noted for NICU admission rates, meconium aspiration, meconium below the cords, or abnormal Apgar scores.

Conclusion: A policy of labor induction at 41 weeks' gestation for otherwise uncomplicated singleton pregnancies reduces cesarean delivery rates without compromising perinatal outcomes.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Cesarean Section / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Labor, Induced*
  • Odds Ratio
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Outcome
  • Pregnancy, Prolonged*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic