'Alarming' new study shows rising number of women induced for no medical reason: 'I am still damaged'

Photo: Marion George was induced when she had her first baby. Supplied
Photo: Marion George was induced when she had her first baby. Supplied 

Melbourne mum Marion George is still suffering the physical and psychological effects of an induction that she believes was unnecessary when she had her first baby four years ago.

"I had no issues or complications with the pregnancy and no clinical indications to suggest anything was wrong," the 39-year-old explains.

However, her private obstetrician said scans at her 38- and 39-week appointments showed "static growth".

Photo: Supplied
Photo: Supplied 

"She (the obstetrician) had an attitude of better out than in. I was worried because she put it to me that there was a problem. I said to her, 'what would you do' and she said, 'I would induce', so I trusted her judgement.

"I have grieved about that decision every day for the last four years and I don't think it's ever going to end," she says through tears.

Marion is one of an increasing number of Australian women being induced for no medical reason.

A 16-year study led by Western Sydney University has found an alarmingly high rate of induction of labour for uncomplicated births at increasingly earlier gestations, resulting in higher interventions and poorer outcomes, with first time mothers the most at risk.

Professor of Midwifery at Western Sydney University, Hannah Dahlen, says the research, published in the BMJ, found 41 per cent of first-time mothers were induced in 2018, which was up from 30 per cent in 2010.

Professor Dahlen says the study of 475,000 women, who were the lowest of low risk, looked at trends by gestational week, and at 37 and 39 weeks they saw a tripling in the inductions and at 38 and 40 weeks a doubling.

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"What that tells me is we have lost perspective that this is a medical intervention, and we are dropping the benchmark, and in doing that we are seeing more early term babies born," she explains.

"Thirty-seven and 38 weeks are classified as early term births. Babies born early term compared to term and late term have more respiratory disorders, are less able to regulate their temperature and to feed. We also know they have neurological disorders and educational issues when they enter school.

"We are creating this group of babies that are just not ready to be in the world," Professor Dahlen states.

Photo: Marion wishes she had more control over her first birth. Supplied
Photo: Marion wishes she had more control over her first birth. Supplied 

Marion followed her doctor's advice and the next day checked into the hospital to be induced.

After having prostaglandin gel put in, her waters broken and a syntocinon drip, which she says took her from zero to 100 in terms of pain immediately, her labour failed to progress.

"There was no way my body was ready for that birth. My notes say my cervix was closed."

Photo: Supplied
Photo: Supplied 

Through tears her husband signed the caesarean consent form after being told her labour had failed to progress.

"I was cut open and she was pulled out of me," Marion cries.

For an hour afterwards Marion lay there on her own shaking while her baby, Jean, was taken to the nursery with her husband.

Photo: Bree Downes. Supplied
Photo: Bree Downes. Supplied 

"We felt deceived and duped, sold on the promise of a healthy baby. She was born healthy, but she didn't have a healthy mother and still doesn't. I am physically and psychologically damaged."

Professor Dahlen says many healthy women are coerced into inductions; being told their babies are too big, despite late scans being inaccurate, or they will have a better birth if it's scheduled, or even for bizarre reasons such as because they are dancers, horse riders or look tired and wouldn't have the energy to push.

She warns: "We have lost grips that we are doing more harm and we are now alarming and harming healthy women and babies with this intervention.

The research, compared women who had no documented medical indication for induction to those who started spontaneously and, found babies born after induction were more likely to have higher rates of infections, such as ear, nose and throat and breathing difficulties, right up to the age of 16.

"It is not about saying induction is a problem. Induction can save lives when used appropriately," she stresses.

"The evidence is mounting to say we should recommend an induction at 41 weeks, and this is best done before 42 weeks as there is a significant reduction in stillbirth when this is done. However, women always have a choice.

"The biggest thing I hear from women is that 'I was not allowed to' or 'I didn't have a choice'.

"What happens to your body when you are pregnant is legally in your domain to make decisions about. No health provider can ever make you accept an intervention you don't want."

Marion says although the birth of her second child, George, last January also ended in a caesarean, it was a vastly different experience.

"I felt powerful and informed and every time I was offered something I balanced it up with my team," she reveals. "I never felt at the mercy of their decisions at any point."

"I deserved that at my first birth."