Babies born after labour is induced have less risk of dying, but a higher risk of admission to a special-care unit afterwards, a BMJ study suggests.

Using Scottish birth and death records, researchers analysed data for more than 1.2 million women who gave birth to babies after 37 weeks' gestation between 1981 and 2007.

The study looked at full-term births where inductions happened for non-medical reasons - such as a mother's choice. They then looked at results for births at each week of gestation between 37 and 41, comparing women who had inductions for non-medical reasons with those whose pregnancies continued.

The researchers then calculated that, for every 1,040 women having a planned induction at 40 weeks, one newborn death may be prevented, but there would be seven more admissions to a special-care baby unit than if inductions had not taken place.

The study also found that contrary to previous findings, planned inductions did not increase the need for a Caesarean, which they said had become "obstetric dogma".

Dr Sarah Stock, of the University of Edinburgh's Tommy's Centre for Reproductive Health, said: "Women have the choice of induction or waiting.

"There were concerns about inducing birth, but we didn't find an increased risk of complications or operational delivery. However, we did see an increase in neonatal admissions."

Daghni Rajasingam, a consultant obstetrician and spokeswoman for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said there were problems with relying on retrospective data to come to these conclusions because it may not have been entered properly at the time.

She said there were "good prospective, well-designed studies showing the link between inductions and Caesarean sections, which is why it's become 'dogma'".

She added: "Inductions where there are indications are absolutely the right way to go. But this paper is not going to change practice."

Posted by Penny Hosie