There are many reasons that a pregnant mother might choose to have labor induced early. She wants to avoid having a large baby. She doesn’t want to gain any more weight. She wants to prevent any further stretch marks. It’s more convenient to have the child earlier because that’s when family can be in town, work obligations are looming, or there is a birth date that is preferred. They may want to avoid having their child born under a certain zodiac sign, or prevent their birth from happening on an important holiday or another family member’s birthday. Or, labor is scheduled early to work around the doctor’s vacation schedule. Not only that, nine months of carrying around this bowling ball that is increasing its weigh every week, pressing on the sciatica, kicking at the ribs, making it harder and harder to sit, stand, roll over, breathe…. By the time the third trimester hits, a pregnant woman is so ready to get that baby out of her that time pretty much stands still. And a baby is considered full term as soon as they enter the 37th week of pregnancy. Many of these elective inductions are being performed at 39 weeks – only 1 week early and a couple weeks into being considered full term.
So what’s the big deal?
A lot. During those last few days or weeks in the womb, a baby’s lungs are still developing. Their vision and brain are still maturing. And they are still putting on vital weight. Babies born too early are not only susceptible to problems resulting from unfinished development, they are also known to sleep longer and to have a hard time learning how to breastfeed, a prime cause for dehydration and jaundice. And being that the rate for elected inductions in the US has tripled since 1990, this is a national concern.
From a recent news article:
One mother, Michelle Van Norman, gave birth to her second child, Christian, 11 days early in 2006, despite no urgency noted on her medical records. The doctor wrote on her chart: “This is a pleasant white female in no apparent distress.”
Van Norman, a 31-year old mom living in Las Vegas, said her doctor didn’t seem worried about the date.”There were no medical reasons for the delivery being early,” Van Norman said. “He told me the week he could do it and asked me to choose which day was best for us.”
After his birth by C-section, one of Christian’s lungs collapsed. He spent three weeks in intensive care and 10 days on a ventilator with six tubes going into his chest. It’s unclear what caused Christian’s lung to collapse, but this condition is strongly associated with early childbirth.
“The whole experience was horrific,” Van Norman said. “It didn’t end with the birth it continued for the first year of his life, and we still don’t know if the oxygen deprivation has had any effect on him.”
(Read more HERE.)
At least one state has taken a stand in this by outlawing elective inductions before 39 weeks. Minnesota has created a policy that requires hospitals to put forth a plan for reducing early inductions by 2012. And if they don’t? They will be required to fill out a crazy amount of paperwork for every single induction they perform before 39 weeks gestation. It’s not to say that medically necessary inductions won’t be allowed, but it’s to serve as a motivation for doctors to not perform an early induction when it isn’t necessary. And this policy might serve as a guideline for future policies in other states – ours included.
I agree with Minnesota here. I can’t see why a matter of convenience should outweigh the healthy development of a child. If there is no medical reason for a child to be born early, they should stay put until the time is right. And I would fully support any policy that comes about to prevent inductions that are performed unnecessarily. Of course, sometimes it’s vital for both the health of the baby and the mother for the baby to leave the womb early. But these designer birth plans that involve an early labor to avoid weight gain or when it’s conducive to everyone’s schedule at the risk of the baby’s health? Unacceptable. And it should be stopped.