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Early Labor Induction Is Risky For Newborns

Last summer a study published in Obstetrics & Gynecology showed that induction doubles the rate of C-section. The  documentary The Business of Being Born highlighted not the overuse of pain medication in hospitals, but the overuse of pitocin– the labor induction drug.

This week, in honor of Prematurity Awareness Month, the Perinatal Advisory Council: Leadership, Advocacy and Consultation (PAC/LAC), has issued a series of media alerts on the prevention of premature birth.

One of them is titled, “EARLY INDUCTION DANGEROUS FOR NEWBORN BABIES.”

In it they write that the increased practice of inducing labor before a full 39 weeks can have serious consequences for a newborn.
“Although we certainly understand that at 37 weeks many women are exhausted from pregnancy and feel they are ready to give birth, their baby is physically not ready,” says Cindy Fahey, the Executive Director of PAC/LAC. “Inducing labor before 39 weeks is dangerous for the newborn, and has been clearly shown to lead to increased complications at birth and beyond. We strongly urge pregnant women who plan to be induced to wait until at least 39 weeks of pregnancy.”

Term is considered anywhere between 37 and 42 weeks; some babies are born all by themselves at 37 weeks and are completely fine. But some are not ready. These babies may be babies on a longer gestational clock; maybe you have a baby that was meant to develop for a full 41 weeks. Planning an elective induction at 38 weeks would mean that baby was born three weeks too soon.

First-time mothers tend to go an average of four days past their estimated due dates. The last few weeks of pregnancy are often pretty rough on a women– maybe this is to make us all really excited about the prospect of childbirth. But regardless, the last few weeks are critical for the baby in terms of lung and brain development. PAC/LAC lists the complications that can come from an early elective induction:

·         Increased NICU admissions

·         Increased respitory distress and TTN

·         Increased need for ventilator support

·         Increased rate of sepsis

·         Increased feeding problems

The research has been very clear on this and so are the medical guidelines. If there is a medical reason to induce sooner than 39 weeks– like mom is preeclamptic or the baby is not growing properly– then the risks of continuing the pregnancy become greater than the risks of induction. And induction is a great idea. But too often, women are being induced for convenience.

PAC/LAC, which is based in Los Angeles, California, has introduce a program in California called the <39 Week Toolkit, that aims to reverse the “dangerous trend of inducing birth before 39 weeks.”

For more information please visit www.paclac.org.

To learn more about how labor induction influences the way labor and birth unfold, watch this.

photo: cesar rincon/flickr

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