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In case you haven’t heard, elective, early labor inductions now account for more than 20 percent of all U.S. deliveries. Think about that: Modern medicine coaxes one in five babies out of the womb ahead of schedule. But is that safe?
A recent Wall Street Journal article highlights a "growing body of medical evidence" that says, maybe not. While “term” -- the magic time when a baby is considered fully developed -- has long been defined as 37 weeks, experts are beginning to realize that more time in utero may be better. A slew of medical studies have shown that babies born at weeks 37 and 38 have more medical problems than babies born after 39 weeks. (A normal pregnancy usually lasts between 37 and 42 weeks.)
At one large healthcare group, 26 percent of the infants induced between 37 and 39 weeks required an average of 4.5 days in the NICU, while only 4.6 percent of babes induced after 39 weeks needed NICU care.
Inductions, of course, can be life-saving. If continuing the pregnancy would jeopardize mom's health (as in cases of severe pre-eclampsia) or baby's (say, if the bag of water breaks well before labor begins), inducing labor is often the best option. But sometimes, inductions are a matter of convenience -- for both mom and doctor -- or vanity. (As the WSJ article noted, some moms are requesting to be induced on 11-11-11.)
The bottom line? Think long and hard before agreeing to an induction before 39 weeks. Your body, it turns out, knows best.