Despite the unquestionable facts that inductions and c-sections should be avoided unless medically indicated, as they carry very significant risks not worth taking unless there is a real medical need, there are still many doctors -- and sadly, many moms -- who still take them lightly. We've all heard that 37 weeks is the start of a baby being full-term, but unfortunately, that leads to many women who see that number as their pregnancy 'end date' rather than their actual due date.
The number that medical professionals and now many hospitals want women to aim for as a bare minimum? It's 39 weeks.
And many hospitals have now put regulations in place preventing any form of induction or elective c-sections before that point.
Why 39 weeks? Well, take into account that your due date can be off by multiple weeks, and that ultrasound weight guesses can also be off by a few pounds. Babies born before 39 weeks gestation have higher rates of hearing and vision problems, respiratory distress, seizures, inability to suck and eat ... they also have significantly higher rates of death -- 50 percent higher, according to the March of Dimes. One-third of baby's brain growth happens between 35 and 39 weeks! Let's not forget, of course, that failed inductions cause major stress to mom and baby, and c-sections -- a major surgery -- have incredibly significant risks for both mom and baby, immediately and long-term, harder for a younger, less stable infant to handle as well.
A survey taken of over 650 first time moms resulted in a scary find -- over half thought delivering before 37 weeks was totally safe. And sadly, that trend is only perpetuated by doctor's arrogance and impatience as well. Dr. Ken Welch, who works at Banner Estrella Medical Center, a hospital that has banned elective procedures before 39 weeks, told ABC:
We became good at delivering babies before 39 weeks. Doctors were thinking if you can deliver at 39 weeks, why not 38 weeks or 36 weeks. We just had to draw the line in the sand [39 weeks] and say, because of the data, that we've become convinced we know it's healthier for the baby and we know the mother wants what's best for the baby.
Of course, I'm sure many of you all are thinking, "Yeah, more doctor and mother blame ... how many elective inductions or c-sections are REALLY done before then?" Well, many have c-sections or are induced way too early.
"Probably the biggest reason to deliver early, however, is to relieve the woman's physical discomfort," said Dr. Elizabeth Howell, who has been practicing at McKee, a Colorado hospital that has recently adopted the 39-week rule.
"I have seen women induced or have a scheduled c-section because they have family scheduled to be in town, because they want the baby to be born on an anniversary or someone else's birthday, because they want the baby born prior to January 1 for tax purposes, or because they are simply sick and tired of being pregnant," said Dr. Elaine St. John, associate professor of pediatrics in the Division of Neonatology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
While there are absolutely justifiable, needed inductions and c-sections, to deny that some people make selfish choices, or get so caught up in their discomfort that they really feel like they couldn't possibly survive another week of pregnancy (I know how THAT feels!), hospitals are making the right move. The hospitals who've had these policies have had extremely significant reductions in infants that need time in the NICU.
So, while some pregnant and miserable moms, or those who wanted to choose their baby's birthday might be irritated with not being allowed to induce or have a cesarean early, the baby's lifelong health is finally becoming the focus again, and I'm glad.
Did you try for or did your doctor try to convince you to have an induction or c-section before 39 weeks?
Image via Joe Lanman/Flickr