The United States Department of Health and Human Services has launched a new initiative called Strong Start, whose mission is primarily to decrease the number of non-necessary preterm deliveries. According to their recent press release, more than 500,000 infants are born prematurely in the US every year and that figure is a 36 percent increase from 20 years ago. If that figure doesn’t scare you, then you’re not listening. With all the technology and advanced medical care at our fingertips, we should absolutely see that number going down instead of up.
I assume I don’t need to tell you that premature deliveries mean more complications, more medical interventions, more money and more long term problems for these children.
But what you might not know is that though they are working on the scary preterm deliveries we have all heard and thought about, using improved prenatal care techniques, they are setting their sites on another form of preterm delivery: option inductions and c-sections before 39 weeks of gestation.
According to United States government figures, 10 percent of all deliveries each year in the United States are scheduled deliveries before 39 weeks without a medical reason. Now let’s be clear, I’m not talking about scheduled deliveries for high blood pressure or for other medical reasons or complications, I’m talking about the induced deliveries and scheduled c-sections that are scheduled for patient or doctor preference.
Simply put, the government is finally doing its part to stop preterm deliveries when not medically necessary, and personally, all I can say about this is that it’s about time. When there’s no medical reason to have a baby early, it is completely baffling to me why a doctor or patient would ever elect to do so. Late pregnancy is not comfortable, the waiting is awful, but the health of the baby is so much more important.
The rate of complications goes up significantly each week a baby is preterm and because we’ve all been conditioned to think of 38 weeks as term, doesn’t mean that babies are really ready for the world at that time. And before you tell me that you had a scheduled delivery at 37 weeks and your baby was healthy as a horse, let me just say that yes, I know, but that doesn’t mean that the majority of people in that situation are as lucky.
Babies are meant to be kept in utero for 40 weeks and unless there’s a true medically necessary reason, we need to stop these early deliveries. I support the Strong Start Initiative and hope that with this plan they’re able to dramatically reduce the number of preterm deliveries, both optional and not.