First-time Mothers Greatly Underestimate Risk of Early, Elective Birth

Medical experts point to a disturbing trend of expectant mothers who are choosing to deliver their babies for non-medical reasons before 39 weeks of pregnancy

Medical experts point to a disturbing trend of expectant mothers who are choosing to deliver their babies for non-medical reasons before 39 weeks of pregnancy. Research published in Obstetrics & Gynecology reveals just how prevalent elective deliveries are in the US.

In the study of 7,804 women giving birth for the first time, labor was induced in 43.6 percent of the women, and 39.9 percent of those were elective inductions.

A startling number of first-time mothers—92 percent–believe it’s safe to deliver a baby before 39 weeks, according to a recent UnitedHealthcare survey of 650 insured, first-time mothers. Only eight percent of women surveyed accurately identified 39 to 40 weeks as being the earliest point that it is safe to deliver the baby given no other medical complications requiring early delivery. Nearly 41 percent of women believed that 37 to 38 weeks is the earliest point, while more than half the women surveyed chose 34 to 36 weeks.

Dr. Tina Groat, MD and National Medical Director for Women’s Health at UnitedHealthcare, is available to discuss this trend and what expectant mothers can do in the final weeks to ensure their babies are healthy.

“Unfortunately, many expectant mothers are not aware of the risks associated with early elective C-sections and induced labor. Expectant mothers may believe that at 36 weeks they have completed their nine months of pregnancy, but Mother Nature’s formula for healthy babies is actually 40 weeks,” Dr. Groat says.

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine revealed that babies born electively by C-section at 37 weeks were twice as likely to have health problems, usually respiratory in nature, than babies born at 39 weeks or later. Infants delivered preterm are at an increased risk of developing chronic lung disease, cerebral palsy, learning disabilities and behavioral problems.

“The results of recent studies stress the importance of educating expectant mothers on the risks associated with elective deliveries prior to 39 weeks. These early-term births can result in the newborn’s admission to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, which increases the baby’s hospital stay and health risks,” Dr. Groat says.

“Although the last few weeks of pregnancy can often be physically uncomfortable, expectant parents should take the opportunity to learn just how important the last few weeks are for their baby’s development and health,” Dr. Groat says. “Women should talk with their doctors about the best time to deliver and the risks of putting convenience before safety.”

Source: UnitedHealthcare