Over the years, doctors have been noticing a disturbing trend: An increasing number of women have been electing to give birth earlier, whether through cesarean section or inducement, for completely nonmedical reasons. However, new research from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists indicates that babies must remain in the womb for at least 39 weeks for optimal health.
Studies from the organization have shown that each and every week is critical to proper baby development, even those during the final trimester. This new research has led the medical community to relabel pregnancy terms as early term (37-38 weeks), full term (39-40 weeks), late term (41-42 weeks) and postterm (42+ weeks). The relabeling is meant to be a guide to physicians as well as their patients on when it's ideal to plan a delivery.
Because even the final weeks are considered critical for healthy baby development, doctors are trying desperately to reverse this trend of early birthing for nonmedical reasons - and reports indicate that they're succeeding.
Reversing the trend of early birth
According to a new study published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, moms-to-be can be convinced to carry their babies to full term if it's clear that doing so is in the best interest of their children.
For the study, 25 hospitals in California, New York, Florida, Illinois and Texas participated in a program with the aim of eliminating early elective deliveries before the 39-week marker. According to the study, 38 percent of births in the U.S. occur in these five states.
Doctors and researchers saw considerable results in just one year, with an overall 83 percent decline in nonmedical elective early-term deliveries. In the January the study began, approximately 28 percent of babies were early term, born within the 37-38 week range. By December of that same year, the number of elective early deliveries was down to 5 percent - a 23 percent decrease over a 12-month period. Researchers also noticed that there was a corresponding increase in later term births between 39 and 41 weeks. According to physicians, this is a healthier time frame in which to deliver.
Edward McCabe, M.D., a pediatrician and medical director for the March of Dimes Foundation, which developed the information given to the participating hospitals and partly funded the study, suggested that hospitals need to undergo a "cultural change" in order to empower doctors and nurses to provide moms-to-be with the right information for a safe and healthy birth. In September, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists once again gave its recommendation that women wait until they're full term before giving birth.
Why do women give birth early?
Many women ask to give birth early simply because of convenience. Third trimester pregnancy isn't always a joy to bear, and when the option to induce labor early is present, many jump at the chance. However, with this new information, medical experts are hoping women will make the safest choice for themselves and their babies.
Is it a good thing that more women are waiting to give birth? Let us know what you think in the comments section.