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IUGR, which affects about 10 percent of pregnant women, means that the fetus is much smaller than normal. At birth, these babies are more likely to have low blood sugar, an abnormally high red blood cell count and trouble maintaining their body temperature. These babies are also at increased risk for jaundice, infections and cerebral palsy.
Currently, doctors have two main approaches for women with suspected IUGR who are nearing delivery. Some doctors induce labor because they're concerned about complications, while others await natural delivery.
This study compared the effectiveness of the two strategies among 650 women in The Netherlands. The researchers found that median birth weight was significantly lower among babies born after induced labor (2,420 grams) than among those in the spontaneous delivery group (2,560 grams). Both groups of babies had similar rates of adverse post-delivery outcomes.
The findings show that waiting for birth is equally as effective as inducing labor, the researchers concluded.
"We now have an evidence-based reason to individualize care and to allow women to do what they are most comfortable with when deciding whether to induce labor or wait, although long term outcomes have to be awaited," study author Dr. Kim Boers, of the Leiden University Medical Center, said in a news release.
The study was to be presented Thursday at the annual meeting of the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine in Chicago.
-- Robert Preidt
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SOURCE: Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine, news release, Feb. 4, 2010