For decades health care professionals have been under the impression that inducing labor is more expensive than waiting for spontaneous labor to happen naturally. However, a new study is now proving that isn't necessarily true, and that inducing labor at 39 weeks gestation can cost the same as waiting for labor to occur on its own.
The study, conducted by the University of Utah Health and Intermountain Healthcare is showing there are no additional costs to inducing labor over waiting for it to happen naturally, something that has long been believed in the healthcare system, Science Daily reports. This could hugely impact maternal care across the country.
"We found that the increase in cost from other parts of patient care cancel out those costs [from induction]," said Dr. Brett Einerson, assistant professor in the division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine at U of U Health. "This a conclusion that is totally opposite of what we in obstetrics have assumed over the past 30 years." Einerson said they studied actual patients in a randomized study as they approached their due date and were able to look at the actual costs associated with varying dates of delivery.
The study found that women who went past 39 weeks gestation incurred as many costs by requiring additional healthcare visits and potential medication as the costs accrued by women who were induced at 39 weeks. The study also mentioned the potential complications for women who are still pregnant 39 weeks, including the increased risk of c-sections. Previous studies have concluded that inducing labor at 39 weeks reduces the risk of women having to have a c-section as well as reducing the risks of other complications such as preeclampsia. Not only do these complications pose risks to both the mother and the baby, but they also require more costly hospital procedures and potential lengthy hospital stays.
Dr. Sean Esplin, co-author of the study and Chair of the Women and Newborn Research Group at Intermountain Healthcare says the study can have a huge impact on how doctors can treat their patients while still keeping budget in mind. "These results demonstrate the importance of considering cost in the medical decisions that we make. Intermountain Healthcare and the University of Utah are interested in providing the highest quality of care at the lowest price possible, so we are constantly tracking costs, which makes a study like this possible."
While the study looked at data from a Utah hospital, Einerson feels that it can be applicable across the country. "This is a huge strength of our study," Einerson said. "Our results represent high and low volume hospitals, which were consistent across each institution and could be transferable to other hospitals across the country."