Doctors Changing Practice of Inducing Before 39 Weeks

Are we there yet?

Almost any pregnancy information you  find — a magazine article, book or web site — will tell you that at 37 weeks, a pregnant woman is considered full term.  After that, so the story goes, you could give birth at any time and not really worry about the complications of preterm delivery.  And, if you want to deliver early, because of scheduling conflicts, an older child, an army deployment, or because you’re so done with being pregnant, many doctors will oblige, offering an early induction or C-section after 37 weeks.

But that practice is changing.  On the heels of new data showing higher rates of respiratory problems, pulmonary hypertension and admissions to neonatal intensive care units for babies born at 37 and 38 weeks than those born at 39 or beyond, doctors in Florida and other states are stopping the practice of elective early induction.According to a story on, Florida has a very high rate of preterm birth – 14 percent.  And so a Florida Perinatal Quality Collaborative was formed to work with the March of Dimes and six Florida hospitals and lower the rates of preterm birth. Elective preterm inductions and c-sections are an obvious place to start.

There are any number of medical reasons to induce labor before 40 weeks, but studies suggest that convenience has been a big factor in induction and scheduled c-sections nationwide. According to the article:

“A 2009 study by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, women in Utah who had labor induced were more likely to deliver on weekdays than on weekends, and during the day or early evening hours. An evaluation of deliveries in New York found that in more than a quarter of induced deliveries, no medical reason was documented.

The American College study noted that some doctors use elective inductions to more efficiently manage work and vacation schedules.”

This is, of course, not news to many women who’ve given birth.  But the data showing more complications when women give birth before 39 weeks is strong enough that the practice will stop. In Utah over the last six years the rate of elective early induction or c-section has dropped from 28 percent to 3 percent.

Do you have an early induction/c-section story? Would you consider one when giving birth?

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