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Why You Should Wait For Your Baby's Term (and Forget Labor Induction)
PHOTO BY @Wavebreakmedia/iStock
  • Preggo moms, do you sometimes feel like you've been pregnant forever? The wait could be overwhelming, and sometimes you just want to get it over with. Jenny [not her real name], an administrative assistant, after waiting so long to be pregnant with her first child, decided she'd like her doctor to induce her labor at 38 weeks. As a result, her baby developed a mild case of jaundice, and had to stay in the hospital for a few days. She was lucky; it could have been worse than that.

    New studies suggest that delivering a baby prior to 39 weeks makes him prone to a host of health and developmental problems. Unless there is a medical reason to deliver the baby before that time, labor induction is now highly discouraged.

    "The evidence is so compelling that a growing number of American hospitals are launching programs to help prevent elective deliveries before 39 weeks of gestation," Diane Ashton, M.D., deputy medical director of the March of Dimes, told Parents.

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    What "term" means

    Physicians used to believe that a pregnancy is in its full term when it hits the 37-week mark, and that most major organs are already fully developed by then. The latest research shows, however, that it could take longer than that. 

    "We now know that important organs, such as the lung and the brain, are not fully developed until 39 weeks," says Jason K. Baxter, M.D., an ob-gyn specializing in high-risk pregnancies at the Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia. 

    Studies show that babies delivered via C-section before 39 weeks had more breathing difficulties than those born via CS after that period. Those born earlier at 37 weeks are also four times more likely to stay in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and suffer from respiratory problems, according to Parents.

    Nowadays, when the doctor says "term", it usually means 39 weeks and up, and those born before that are considered early-term.

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    What happens in those last few weeks

    At 37 weeks, your baby's lungs are not yet done developing. The umbilical cord starts passing antibodies to your baby in preparation for delivery, which will prepare him for the germs he'll encounter outside the womb.

    At 38 weeks, your baby is training his lungs to breathe and developing his digestive system by continuing to breathe in and digest amniotic fluid.

    Your baby's brain continues to grow at 39 weeks. By then, he woud have developed enough baby fat to keep him warm once he's born, and is practicing his reflexes that will help him suck, swallow, breathe, and regulate his body temperature.

    Natural birth more favorable than CS

    Inducing labor, and possibly giving birth via Cesarean section, involves a number of medical interventions which may not be the best for you, or your baby. According to Kathleen Simpson, Ph.D., a clinical nurse specialist at Mercy Hospital in St. Louis, you're more likely to have a smoother birth if you allow your body to go into labor naturally.

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    There are more reasons to wait: the procedure for first-time moms whose labor were induced took longer than those who went into labor spontaneously. And if your baby encounters health problems as a result of him being born too early, remember that it would entail another few days to a week to keep him in the NICU. It may also set you back by a few thousands financially.

    So sit back and keep your mind occupied so you don't entertain the thought of labor induction. Remember, nature knows when the time is right, and your "bouncing, healthy baby" will meet you when it is.

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