False Labor at Term in Singleton Pregnancies: Discharge After a Standardized Assessment and Perinatal Outcomes

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Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

To evaluate perinatal outcomes in women sent home with a diagnosis of false labor at term and assess the time interval to return for delivery.

METHODS:

This was a prospective observational cohort study of women at 37 0/7 to 41 6/7 weeks of gestation without pre-existing medical complications who presented to our hospital-based triage unit with symptoms of labor and underwent a standardized evaluation. Women diagnosed as having false labor with a live singleton fetus in cephalic presentation without a prior cesarean delivery and sent home were compared with a group of similar women diagnosed to be in spontaneous labor. Women with hypertension, diabetes, and known fetal malformations were excluded. Using a perinatal composite outcome of respiratory insufficiency, intraventricular hemorrhage, culture-proven sepsis, Apgar score 3 or less at 5 minutes, phototherapy, and perinatal death, we tested the noninferiority of being sent home compared with being admitted for labor. The relationship of cervical dilatation to the time interval from discharge home to delivery was also analyzed.

RESULTS:

Between October 2012 and March 2016, a total of 3,949 women met inclusion criteria and were diagnosed with false labor, discharged, and returned to deliver, whereas 2,592 similar women were admitted in early labor. The mean interval from discharge to return was 4.9 days. Cesarean delivery rates were not different between the study groups—11% for both (P=.69), and the perinatal composite outcome rates were not significantly different between those sent home and those admitted—3.2% compared with 3.1% (P=.79). Women with more advanced cervical dilatation at discharge returned and delivered significantly earlier than those with less dilatation regardless of parity.

CONCLUSION:

Discharge with false labor at term after a standardized assessment in a triage unit was not associated with increased rates of adverse perinatal composite outcomes or cesarean delivery. The time interval to return for delivery was significantly associated with the cervical dilatation at discharge.

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