Expectant mothers nearing the end of their pregnancies often ask whether labor should be induced, or be allowed to happen naturally. While pregnancy can become uncomfortable as a woman's due date draws close, inducing labor, defined as using medications to start and maintain the labor process, is generally reserved for specific medical conditions.

Some common reasons for inducing labor include high blood pressure, concern about the growth of the baby and pregnancies affected by diabetes. In these situations, labor may be induced because it is considered safer for mother and baby than continuing the pregnancy.

However, some women wish to begin labor at a certain time for non-medical reasons, such as wanting to select a meaningful delivery date, to make scheduling easier, or to relieve discomfort.

More attention has been given to this issue recently because research has shown that babies who are delivered more than a week prior to their due date are at increased risk for complications, and mothers have a higher incidence of cesarean section deliveries if labor is induced.

Based on these findings, the American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends against an elective delivery for a non-medical reason anytime prior to 39 weeks of pregnancy.

An expectant mother should consult with her physician regarding any desire to induce labor, so both patient and physician can evaluate the situation and determine the safest course of action for mother and baby.

• Dr. Michael Urig is chief of obstetrics and gynecology at Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center. For more information on this topic, talk with your doctor, or call Urig's Ahwatukee office at (480) 759-9191.

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