Holidays Put Pressure on Women to Schedule Early Delivery

by Lamaze International

counting down the minutes to deliveryIn the rush of the holiday season, most people worry about on-time delivery of important gifts and packages for friends and loved ones. But for a pregnant woman due around the holidays, there's an added worry about when her baby will arrive.

Around the holidays, many pregnant women experience pressure from family or their healthcare providers to "schedule" their baby's birthday around festivities and travel plans. Lamaze warns that scheduling a baby's delivery without a compelling medical reason can put the baby at risk.

"Few doctors want to be pacing the halls on Thanksgiving or Christmas, waiting for a mother to deliver," said Marilyn Curl, CNM, MSN, LCCE, FACCE and president of Lamaze International. "So it's not uncommon to see a surge of women with normal pregnancies being told that there might be an issue and that they should consider scheduling the delivery, coincidentally, right before a holiday."

Healthcare professionals aren't the only ones who may try to rush the arrival of babies. Families often can feel stressed about the uncertainty of the baby's arrival and feel it may compromise the celebration of holidays. Some women also fear that their preferred healthcare provider won't be available and will agree to a scheduled early delivery to guarantee that their provider will be there for the birth.

"I really understand that pressure. You build a relationship with your care provider over the course of a pregnancy. Plus, you build up expectations about your holiday celebration. So it seems like 'no big deal' just to get the birth over with," said Sue Galyen, RN, MSN, HCHI, LCCE, FACCE, a Lamaze childbirth educator from Brownsburg, IN. "But it's so hard to think that a scheduled delivery, whether through induction or cesarean, was worth it when either the mother or baby experiences a complication as a result."

Dangers of Early Delivery

One complication of scheduling the baby's birthday is that often, the baby is delivered just a little too early. A growing body of research shows that giving a baby those last few weeks or days inside the uterus can be crucial to the baby's health. Babies born even a "little" early face risks including breastfeeding difficulties, learning and behavioral problems, breathing problems, increased chance of time in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and risk of death.

"I've had so many students with due dates around the holidays and it's amazing how many of them ended up with more complications than they bargained for because of the medical intervention," said Galyen.

Red Flags of Unnecessarily Early Delivery

Women can play a key part in driving down avoidable prematurity. "Red flags" that might signal that a mother is being pressured into an unnecessarily early delivery include:

  • The care provider suggests that the baby is too big and will be easier to deliver "a little early"
  • The suggestion is made that the care provider won't be available for a holiday delivery or will be "booked up"
  • The timing of the delivery is centered on travel and celebration schedules
  • Holiday stress is driving feelings of wanting to get the pregnancy "over with"

Six Healthy Birth Practices

Avoiding unnecessary medical inductions is part of Lamaze International's Six Healthy Birth Practices. Based on recommendations by the World Health Organization and backed by extensive research that supports a woman’s natural ability to give birth, these practices are:

  1. Let labor begin on its own
  2. Walk, move around and change positions throughout labor
  3. Bring a loved one, friend or doula for continuous support
  4. Avoid interventions that are not medically necessary
  5. Follow your body's urges to push and void giving birth on your back
  6. Keep mother and baby together; it's best for mother, baby and breastfeeding

Inducing labor without a compelling medical reason is one of many routine interventions that has not proven a medical benefit to mothers and babies and can impose harm. Other common routine interventions include continuous fetal monitoring, coached pushing, being positioned on your back during labor, requiring repeat cesarean surgeries for women with a prior cesarean and separating mothers and babies after birth.

Lamaze International promotes a natural, healthy and safe approach to pregnancy, childbirth and early parenting practices. For more information visit their website.

Copyright © Lamaze International. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org, LLC.