Pregnant women to trial induction methods

Pregnant mamas, take note! Here’s a rare opportunity to help improve birthing conditions for future generations. The University of Auckland OBLIGE Study will compare two common ways of starting labour, and aims to discover which method is more likely to result in a vaginal birth, and which method is most preferred.

Researchers at the Universities of Auckland and Otago are partnering with eight New Zealand hospitals to compare the experiences of women scheduled for an induction. Women given the prostaglandin hormone gel will stay in hospital, while those using the balloon can go home. The balloon is inserted into the cervix to help it soften and stretch in preparation for labour. 

The study aims to see who is more likely to have a vaginal birth, and whether the balloon method is more family/whanau and women-friendly.

A recent study out of Australia of > 8,000 women who started their induction with a balloon showed that balloons are very safe both for mum and baby, says lead researcher and obstetrician Dr Michelle Wise.

Going home for the start of an induction is common in other countries, but relatively new in New Zealand.

“Women who spend the first part of their induction at home are able to sleep better, and have less worries with regards to their induction," Dr Wise says.

“Having your induction started with the balloon is more natural because it works by releasing the body’s natural hormones. Once it’s in the right position, you shouldn’t even notice it is there, but it is working slowly and steadily to soften the cervix and prepare it for labour.”

If a woman at home with the balloon starts having contractions or her waters break, or any problems arise, she can come back to the hospital early and be under the care of the hospital midwives and doctors.

Last year in New Zealand, one in four pregnant women had an induction of labour.

The study is unusual in that pregnant women are rarely included in research on a global level.

Most women planning induction of labour could participate in this study says Dr Wise, but all women should check with their midwife or doctor first. The criteria to be involved is:

  • Having your labour induced after 37 weeks pregnant
  • Well-grown single healthy baby
  • Willing to stay within one hour of hospital during the induction process

What’s involved in the OBLIGE study.

When you come into hospital for your first assessment, the midwife or doctor will make sure your waters are intact and your baby is moving well. If you think you want to be part of the study, the staff will give you more detailed information to read and answer any questions.

One group of women will get one or more doses of prostaglandin hormone gel and stay in hospital throughout, and the other group of women will get the balloon and go home for 18-24 hours. You or your midwife/doctor do not get to choose which group you are in, rather the study randomly select and you have a 50/50 chance to be in one or the other group – you’ll need to be prepared for either one!

After the initial 18-24 hours, the rest of your care in labour and birth is the same for both groups, and the decisions are all up to you and your midwife and doctor.

If you’re planning your birth at the following hospitals, do get in touch with the research midwives to discuss OBLIGE ahead of time so you can be well prepared. This will be the first large study in New Zealand that examines women going home with a balloon catheter as part of their induction – over 1500 women will take part in OBLIGE. Another 1500 women will be taking part in a similar study in Australia, called the PINC Balloon Study.

Auckland Hospital: Paula

Hawkes Bay: Louise

Nelson: Linda

Taranaki: Valentina

Tauranga: Esther

Waikato: Jess

Wellington Hospital: Helen

Whakatane: Thabani

Dr Michelle Wise is a Senior Lecturer at University of Auckland and an Obstetrician at Auckland Hospital. She is the lead researcher for the OBLIGE Study.





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