Inducing Labor Before 39th Week Isn’t Best for Developing Babies

For some moms, it’s not enough to have their new baby arrive; they want their bundle of joy to arrive on a specific date.

It’s known as an elective delivery. That’s when the mom-to-be and her physician agree that it’s time for the baby to be born and schedule a date to go to the hospital and induce labor.

It’s convenient and easier to make plans for some women, especially if this isn’t their first child. They don’t have to wake Grandma or another relative up in the middle of the night to take care of the older siblings if that’s when labor starts on its own. Others may want their baby born on a significant date, like a holiday or a relative’s birthday.

But scheduling elective deliveries before the 39th week of gestation – the average pregnancy is 40 weeks – can raise some concerns for the baby’s health, said Laura Ashbaugh, RN, nurse manager with Family Maternity Suites, the maternity unit at Memorial Medical Center.

That’s why the hospital no longer schedules elective deliveries before the 39th week, Ashbaugh said. Babies are still developing between their 37th week and 39th week. Their lungs are still maturing, they’re putting on fat and their brains are still developing.

Elective inductions were on the increase across the nation and even at Memorial, Ashbaugh said. The rate had gone as high as 25 percent in the nation and closer to 23 percent in Illinois.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services launched a public health initiative, which seeks to “curb the unsafe practice of scheduling elective, medically unnecessary deliveries before the 39-week mark,” said Deborah Klein Walker in a blog on The Huffington Post.

Memorial recently was recognized by Aetna as part of the insurance company’s elective delivery infant safety program. The hospital was 100-percent compliant with no expectant moms voluntarily induced before 39 weeks.

Memorial Medical Center is a Magnet-designated hospital. The Magnet Recognition Program is the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s highest national honor bestowed upon hospitals for nursing excellence.