New Research Shows Why Every Week of Pregnancy Counts
With elective (and frivolous) induction rates soaring all around us, it definitely behooves us to know the dangers of unnecessary induction!
"Conventional wisdom has long held that inducing labor or having a Caesarean section a bit early posed little risk, since after 34 weeks gestation, all the baby has to do was grow.
"But new research shows that those last weeks of pregnancy are more important than once thought for brain, lung and liver development. And there may be lasting consequences for babies born at 34 to 36 weeks, now called "late preterm."
"A study in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology in October calculated that for each week a baby stayed in the womb between 32 and 39 weeks, there is a 23% decrease in problems such as respiratory distress, jaundice, seizures, temperature instability and brain hemorrhages."
I really liked what this doc had to say:
"There's also a perception that delivering early by c-section is safer for the baby, even though it means major surgery for the mom. "The idea is that somehow, if you're in complete control of the delivery, then only good things will happen. But that's categorically wrong. The baby and the uterus know best," says F. Sessions Cole, director of newborn medicine at St. Louis Children's Hospital.
"He explains that a complex series of events occurs in late pregnancy to prepare the baby to survive outside the womb: The fetus acquires fat needed to maintain body temperature; the liver matures enough to eliminate a toxin called bilirubin from the body; and the lungs get ready to exchange oxygen as soon as the umbilical cord is clamped. Disrupting any of those steps can result in brain damage and other problems. In addition, the squeezing of the uterus during labor stimulates the baby and the placenta to make steroid hormones that help this last phase of lung maturation -- and that's missed if the mother never goes into labor."
And I love the point made here - that doctors and hospitals have MAJOR impact on patient decisions that can lead to good or bad medical decisions (and thus bear a great responsibility to their patients and their babies):
"Making families aware of the risks of delivering early makes a big difference. In Utah, where 27% of elective deliveries in 1999 took place before the 39th week, a major awareness campaign has reduced that to less than 5%. At two St. Louis hospitals that send premature babies to Dr. Cole's neonatal intensive-care unit, obstetricians now ask couples who want to schedule a delivery before 39 weeks to sign a consent form acknowledging the risks. At that point, many wait for nature to take its course, says Dr. Cole."