The March of Dimes has launched a new campaign called “Healthy babies are worth the wait.” The goal: To reduce the number of babies born pre-term due to the trend of inducing labor early and elective Cesarean sections.
According to medical guidelines, fetal development is complete at 39 weeks. But the number of deliveries taking place earlier is on the rise. In a New York Times article, Dr. Uma Reddy of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development says this is especially true among older, well-educated white women.
“Well-educated women may be more inclined to want to schedule birth at a convenient time for themselves and their family members,” the article states. “Doctors, too, may suggest an elective delivery so that birth occurs at a time that best suits their schedules, including office hours and vacation times.”
Today, an estimated 36% of elective deliveries take place before the 39-week mark.
But does early elective delivery truly pose a threat? According to medical facts, absolutely. Contrary to popular belief, the final weeks a baby spends in utero are not just about weight gain — development of the internal organs is still taking place.
A baby’s brain at 35 weeks weighs only two-thirds of what it will weigh at 39 to 40 weeks. Depriving a baby of a few weeks of development in the womb can have very serious medical consequences, including lung problems, jaundice, anemia, and susceptibility to infection.
In the absence of medical complications, the healthiest option for both mother and child is to let the pregnancy proceed to its full and natural length. It’s a departure from the current mode of thinking — that medical procedures should, when possible, be scheduled to allow for maximum convenience on the part of the patient. But it’s critical that patients are aware of possible consequences before making decisions.
For further information on the new program, visit the March of Dimes website.