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The dangers of inducing labor too early

As we have discussed in earlier posts, there is a growing trend toward deliberately delivering infants before they are full term. Now, the March of Dimes has instituted a new campaign to help educate doctors and mothers about the risks of inducing labor prior to 39 weeks.

The campaign, known as "Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait," is in response to an alarming statistic. More than one-third of elective deliveries occur prior to 39 weeks. These intentional premature births are more likely to result in a number of complications and fetal distress. It is a doctor's responsibility to inform families of the potential for an increased risk of injury when labor is induced early. Unfortunately, many doctors believe that delivering a few weeks early is just as safe as delivering at full term.

While an infant's lungs may be mostly developed at 37 weeks, studies show that the risk of respiratory complications is still much lower if the infant is born at 39 or 40 weeks. According to one recent study babies born between 36 and 38 weeks are more than twice as likely to have complications as those born at 39 or 40 weeks.

Those attempting to inform doctors of the increased risk of elective pre-term delivery point out that the situation is different when a labor begins early on its own. A doctor with the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development states that there are fewer respiratory problems when labor occurs on its own than when it is induced.

Families put their trust in a doctor to help guide them to the right choices for pregnancy and childbirth. It is important that doctors are well informed about the risks of inducing labor early and share this knowledge with mothers.

Source: New York Times "A Campaign to Carry Pregnancies to Term" JANE E. BRODY, Aug. 8, 2011

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