Moms-to-be shouldn’t choose to induce labour or have C-sections earlier than 39 weeks, a new study says.
“There’s a common perception that if you just get to 34 or 37 weeks, everything will be fine,” said Alan Fleischman, senior vice-president and medical director at the March of Dimes. But recent research suggests that’s not true — and a major study released yesterday found that the risk of infant death for a 39-week pregnancy is half that of a 37-week pregnancy.
Researchers from March of Dimes, the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration analyzed over 46 million births — “basically the entire U.S. data set,” Fleischman said — from 1995 to 2006. They divided them into “full-term” (39 and 40 weeks) — and “early-term” (37 and 38 weeks), and found that the although overall risk is very small, there is a substantial difference between the groups’ mortality rates: 1.0 for every 1,000 live births for babies born at 40 weeks, and 3.9 per 1,000 in babies born at 37 weeks.
Now, obviously there are times when it’s medically necessary to deliver early. But Canada’s intervention rates are high — our C-section rate is at 26%, well above the World Health Organization‘s recommended 10 to 15 percent — and many women are choosing elective births.
So how do you protect yourself? Fleischman says, “A) don’t push for delivery — there should be no elective deliveries of any kind, either induction or cesarean, before 39 weeks. And b) understand that there’s a growing interventionist mentality, so ask your doctor questions. ‘Why do we need to do this? Are there any other alternatives?'”