A Standardized Labor Induction Protocol: Impact on Racial Disparities in Obstetrical Outcomes

Abstract [from journal]

Background: There are marked disparities between black and nonblack women in the United States in birth outcomes. Yet, there are little data on methods to reduce these disparities. Although the cause of racial disparities in health is multifactorial, implicit bias is thought to play a contributing role. To target differential management, studies in nonobstetrical populations have demonstrated disparity reduction through care standardization. With wide variation by site and provider, labor management practices are the ideal target for standardization.

Objective: In this study, we aimed to evaluate the effect of a standardized induction of labor protocol on racial disparities in cesarean delivery rate and maternal and neonatal morbidity.

Study Design: We performed a prospective cohort study of women undergoing an induction from 2013 to 2015. Full-term (≥37 weeks’ gestation) women carrying a singleton pregnancy with intact membranes and an unfavorable cervix (dilation ≤2 cm, Bishop score of ≤6) were included. We compared the cesarean delivery rate and maternal and neonatal morbidity between 2 groups stratified by race (black vs nonblack) as follows: (1) women induced in a randomized trial (n=491) that utilized an induction protocol with standardized recommendations for interventions such as oxytocin and amniotomy at particular time points and (2) women in an observational arm (n=364) enrolled at the same time whose induction and labor management occurred at provider discretion. Regression modeling was used to test an interaction between the induction protocol and race.

Results: A significant reduction in cesarean delivery rate in black women managed with the induction protocol was noted when compared with those in the observational group (25.7% vs 34.2%; P=.02), whereas there was no difference in cesarean delivery rate in nonblack women (34.6% vs 29.9%; P=.41). The induction protocol reduced the racial disparity in cesarean delivery rate (interaction term, P=.04), even when controlling for parity, body mass index, indication for labor induction, and Bishop score at induction start. In addition, a significant reduction in neonatal morbidity was found in black women managed with the induction protocol (2.9% vs 8.9%; P=.001), with no difference in nonblack women (3.6% vs 5.5%; P=.55). The induction protocol did not significantly affect maternal morbidity for either race.

Conclusion: A standardized induction protocol is associated with reduced cesarean delivery rate and neonatal morbidity in black women undergoing induction. Further studies should determine whether implementation of induction protocols in diverse settings could reduce national racial disparities in obstetrical outcomes.