The ARRIVE Trial: Interpretation from an Epidemiologic Perspective

J Midwifery Womens Health. 2019 Sep;64(5):657-663. doi: 10.1111/jmwh.12996. Epub 2019 Jul 2.


The findings of the ARRIVE trial (A Randomized Trial of Induction Versus Expectant Management) were recently published. This multisite randomized trial was designed to provide evidence regarding whether labor induction or expectant management is associated with increased adverse perinatal outcomes and risk of cesarean birth among healthy nulliparous women at term. The trial reported that the primary outcome, a composite of adverse neonatal outcomes, was not significantly different between the 2 groups; the principal secondary outcome, cesarean birth, was significantly more common among women whose pregnancy was expectantly managed than among women whose labor was induced at 39 weeks. These results have the potential to change existing practice. Several aspects of the study design may influence its potential internal and external validity and should be considered in order to make sound causal inferences from this trial, which will in turn affect how its findings are translated to practice. Although chance and confounding are of minimal concern, given the sample size and randomization used in the study, selection bias may be a concern. Studies are vulnerable to selection bias when the sample population differs from eligible nonparticipants, including in randomized controlled trials. External validity is defined as the extent to which the study population and setting are representative of the larger source population the study intends to represent. External validity may be limited given the characteristics of the women enrolled in the ARRIVE trial and the practice settings where the study was conducted. This brief report provides concrete suggestions for further analyses that could help solidify conclusions from the trial, and for further research questions that will continue advancement toward answering this complex question of how best to manage labor and birth decisions at full term among low-risk women.

Keywords: causality; cesarean; induction of labor; labor onset; pragmatic randomized controlled trials; randomized controlled trials.

MeSH terms

  • Cesarean Section / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Labor, Induced*
  • Pregnancy
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic*
  • Research Design
  • Watchful Waiting*