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This article is part of the supplement: Technical inputs, enhancements and applications of the Lives Saved Tool (LiST)

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Elective induction for pregnancies at or beyond 41 weeks of gestation and its impact on stillbirths: a systematic review with meta-analysis

Arwa Abbas Hussain, Mohammad Yawar Yakoob, Aamer Imdad and Zulfiqar A Bhutta*

Author Affiliations

Division of Women and Child Health, The Aga Khan University, Stadium Road, P.O. Box 3500, Karachi, Pakistan

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BMC Public Health 2011, 11(Suppl 3):S5  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-S3-S5

Published: 13 April 2011



An important determinant of pregnancy outcome is the timely onset of labor and birth. Prolonged gestation complicates 5% to 10% of all pregnancies and confers increased risk to both the fetus and mother. The purpose of this review was to study the possible impact of induction of labour (IOL) for post-term pregnancies compared to expectant management on stillbirths.


A systematic review of the published studies including randomized controlled trials, quasi- randomized trials and observational studies was conducted. Search engines used were PubMed, the Cochrane Library, the WHO regional databases and hand search of bibliographies. A standardized data abstraction sheet was used. Recommendations have been made for input to the Lives Saved Tool (LiST) model by following standardized guidelines developed by the Child Health Epidemiology Reference Group (CHERG).


A total of 25 studies were included in this review. Meta-analysis of 14 randomized controlled trials (RCTs) suggests that a policy of elective IOL for pregnancies at or beyond 41 weeks is associated with significantly fewer perinatal deaths (RR=0.31; 95% CI: 0.11-0.88) compared to expectant management, but no significant difference in the incidence of stillbirth (RR= 0.29; 95% CI: 0.06-1.38) was noted. The included trials evaluating this intervention were small, with few events in the intervention and control group. There was significant decrease in incidence of neonatal morbidity from meconium aspiration (RR = 0.43, 95% CI 0.23-0.79) and macrosomia (RR = 0.72; 95% CI: 0.54 – 0.98). Using CHERG rules, we recommended 69% reduction as a point estimate for the risk of stillbirth with IOL for prolonged gestation (> 41 weeks).


Induction of labour appears to be an effective way of reducing perinatal morbidity and mortality associated with post-term pregnancies. It should be offered to women with post-term pregnancies after discussing the benefits and risks of induction of labor.