Race May Affect Labor Induction Rates

September 25, 2008

Maternal race is associated with induction of labor, with rates increasing disproportionately among non-African American women, according to the results of a study published in the September issue of Medical Care.

THURSDAY, Sept. 25 (HealthDay News) -- Maternal race is associated with induction of labor, with rates increasing disproportionately among non-African American women, according to the results of a study published in the September issue of Medical Care.

Karna Murthy, M.D., of Northwestern University in Chicago, and colleagues analyzed data from women who delivered a singleton infant at term in Illinois between 1991 and 2003, using data from the National Center for Health Statistics. Maternal race, derived from birth certificates, was categorized as white, African American, or non-white/non-African American.

Over this period, the induction of labor rate rose from 101 (plus or minus 47) per 1,000 eligible women in 1991 to 297 (plus or minus 85) per 1,000 in 2003, and the rate rose disproportionately for non-African American women. After adjustment for a number of factors, each 1 percent increase in the proportion of white and non-white/non-African American women in a county was associated with a 74 percent and 92 percent rise in the annual induction rate, respectively.

"Though these data do not confirm causality, it is reasonable to suggest that maternal race may be related to the rate of induction. Racial disparities have been well demonstrated in many facets of medicine. Although there are some clear obstetrical indications for induction, there are other situations for which the need for the immediate initiation of labor can be reasonably debated," the authors write. "Several questions remain unanswered, including whether these disparities are due to differences in physician practice, patient desire, or a combination of both."

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