Early Induction: What You Should Know

In line with last week’s post about recommendations against elective induction before 39 weeks, let’s talk about what an early induction means. Below are some basic points with links to more in-depth information from evidence-based resources.

How early is an early induction?

An “early induction” is any induction that is performed before 39 weeks of pregnancy. Experts from several recognized organizations, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), Childbirth Connection and March of Dimes, state that a baby needs at least 39 completed weeks in order to fully develop their brain and other vital organs.

What are the risks of early induction?

Induction in and of itself carries risks to mom and baby. Because induction is an artificial process for starting labor, your body may not be ready to follow its cues. As a result, inductions can cause a cascade of additional medical processes (interventions) to keep labor going, which can ultimately lead to an increased risk for cesarean surgery. Unless there is clear medical indication (see below), letting labor begin on its own is the safest decision.

Induction before 39 weeks brings an additional risk of prematurity. Babies born even a little too early can experience complications like problems with breathing, feeding, maintaining body temperature and jaundice. In most cases, babies know best when it comes to being born.

What if I need to be induced?

There are solid medical reasons for induction before 39 weeks. Being done with being pregnant, isn’t one of them. ;)  There are also several reasons given for induction that are not true medical reasons. It’s important to know the difference. Click through and read up on the two links provided above on the new induction resource page on Childbirth Connection, a not-for-profit organization founded that works to improve the quality of maternity care.

If you’re pregnant and faced with the decision to induce — and even if you’re not — read up! Inform yourself. Learn all that you can, from sources in addition to your care provider and other than well-meaning family and friends. Start here:

To Induce or Not Induce

Are you approaching your due date or sitting, waiting past your due date? If so, it’s possible that you may be considering an induction. Before you mark your calendar, be sure to do your homework. An induction can be a helpful procedure for moms & babies who need it for medical reasons, but when induction is used outside of necessity, you should know about the risks. The following is reprinted from the Lamaze “Push for Your Baby” campaign website

An increasing number of hospitals are working hard to reduce the number of inductions they are doing, and for good reason. Artificially starting labor may be good for a care provider juggling a busy calendar, or your mother-in-law who wants to book her plane tickets, but it can make labor harder and more painful for women, and stress babies and jeopardize their health. Studies have consistently shown that the risk of having a C-section for first time moms nearly doubles with induction. It also increases your baby’s chance of being born premature. That’s because due dates aren’t an exact science. Even if you and your care provider are positive about your dates, every baby matures at a different rate. Inducing labor can mean your baby is born before he or she is ready.

Aside from the risks of induction, there are specific benefits to letting labor start on its own. During the last part of your pregnancy, your baby’s lungs mature and get ready to breathe. He or she puts on a protective layer of fat, and develops critical brain function through 41 weeks of pregnancy. Cutting the pregnancy short can be tough on your baby.

Before going through with an induction, tell everyone to hold their horses, and take time to learn more about benefits of letting labor start on its own.

What’s Next?

So, how do you get a better idea of the care your doctor or midwife will provide? Ask good questions! Take a look at some suggestions.

Talk Back

How about you? Are you hoping to avoid certain interventions in your baby’s birth? Have you experienced interventions that made your birth harder? Did you successfully avoid an intervention that helped make your birth easier and safer? Tell us your story in the comments.

Are You Due on Christmas? Don’t Be Pressured into an Induction!

In the rush of the holiday season, most people worry about on-time delivery of important gifts and packages for friends and loved ones.  But if you’re a pregnant woman due around the holidays, there’s an added worry about when your baby will arrive.

Around the holidays, many pregnant women experience pressure from family or their healthcare providers to “schedule” their baby’s birthday around festivities and travel plans.  Be aware, however, that scheduling a baby’s delivery without a compelling medical reason can put your baby at risk.

“Few doctors want to be pacing the halls on Thanksgiving or Christmas, waiting for a mother to deliver,” said Marilyn Curl, CNM, MSN, LCCE, FACCE and president of Lamaze International.  “So it’s not uncommon to see a surge of women with normal pregnancies being told that there might be an issue and that they should consider scheduling the delivery, coincidentally, right before a holiday.”

It’s not just your healthcare professional who may try to rush your baby’s arrival.  Families often can feel stressed about the uncertainty of the baby’s arrival and feel it may compromise the celebration of holidays.  Some women also fear that their preferred healthcare provider won’t be available and will agree to a scheduled early delivery to guarantee that their provider will be available for the birth.

“I really understand that pressure.  You build a relationship with your care provider over the course of a pregnancy.  Plus, you build up expectations about your holiday celebration.  So it seems like ‘no big deal’ just to get the birth over with,” said Sue Galyen, RN, MSN, HCHI, LCCE, FACCE, a Lamaze childbirth educator from Brownsburg, IN.  “But it’s so hard to think that a scheduled delivery, whether through induction or cesarean, was worth it when either the mother or baby experiences a complication as a result.”

One complication of scheduling your baby’s birthday is that often, baby is delivered just a little too early.  A growing body of research shows that giving a baby those last few weeks or days inside the uterus can be crucial to the baby’s health.  Babies born even a “little” early face risks including breastfeeding difficulties, learning and behavioral problems, breathing problems, increased chance of time in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and risk of death.

You can play a key part in driving down avoidable prematurity.  “Red flags” that might signal being pressured into an unnecessarily early delivery include:
• The care provider suggests that the baby is too big and will be easier to deliver “a little early”
• The suggestion is made that the care provider won’t be available for a holiday delivery or will be “booked up”
• The timing of the delivery is centered on travel and celebration schedules
• Holiday stress is driving feelings of wanting to get the pregnancy “over with”

Here are some things you can do if you feel you are being pressured into an early delivery:

  • Ask your provider if you need to make a decision right now.  If not, ask why not?  Few decisions need to be made on the spot unless the mother or baby are clearly doing poorly.
  • Research your options.  Use credible sources of information, like LamazeChildbirth ConnectionMothering Magazine’s online forum or your doula to see what the research says and talk to other moms about their experiences.
  • Make a pro/con list.  Label your pros and cons with “medical” vs. “personal” and weigh the “medical” pros and cons more heavily.  If you are talking about a major medical intervention like cesarean or induction and you don’t have a good list of cons, it’s a good sign that you need to do more research.
  • Trust your gut.  Your instincts are geared to protect you and your baby from risk.  Listen to what your gut is saying in the context of the research.
  • Find support.  It’s hard to disagree with your health care provider, so be sure that you go into your appointments with someone who can help you have an informed, evidence-based conversation about your best options.

Inducing labor without a compelling medical reason is one of many routine interventions that has not proven a medical benefit to mothers and babies and can impose harm.  Other common routine interventions include continuous fetal monitoring, coached pushing, being positioned on your back during labor, requiring repeat cesarean surgeries for women with a prior cesarean and separating mothers and babies after birth.

You can learn more about the Lamaze Six Healthy Birth Practices by enrolling in a Lamaze childbirth education class and visiting www.lamaze.org/healthybirthpractices.

Appropriate Use of Interventions: Induction or Augmentation with Pitocin

Pitocin — the synthetic form of oxytocin, the body’s natural hormone that stimulates contractions — is one of the most frequently used medical interventions to induce or augment (speed up) birth. Below are some facts and tips to help you learn more about Pitocin, including how to avoid it, when it’s necessary, and how to keep labor as normal as possible if you are induced with Pitocin.

From The Official Lamaze Guide: Giving Birth with Confidence.

What to Know:

  • Pitocin increases stress on your baby and your uterus and makes contractions more difficult to manage.
  • Pitocin use necessitates an IV and continuous EFM, restricts your mobility, and raises your risk of epidural and cesarean.
  • The WHO believes that Pitocin induction and augmentation are often used inappropriately.
  • The ACOG notes the risks of Pitocin use and recommends cautious decision making.

You’ll Need Induction if:

  • Your labor is slow and doesn’t respond to movement, position change, and hydration.
  • You don’t go into labor spontaneously by forty-two weeks gestation.
  • You have a uterine infection.
  • You have severe pregnancy-induced hypertension.

How to Avoid Unnecessary Use:

  • Be patient waiting for labor to begin and to progress.
  • Remember that your body knows how to give birth.
  • Surround yourself with helpers who trust birth.
  • Stay confident.
  • Use all the comfort measures you’ve learned.
  • Don’t agree to be induced because your caregiver says your baby is getting too big.
  • If your water breaks before contractions start, or if you go past your due date, discuss with your caregiver natural ways to stimulate contractions, such as drinking a bit of castor oil in juice, stimulating your nipples, and being active.
  • Ask, “What if I wait?” if your caregiver is insistent about inducing labor.

How to Keep Labor as Normal as Possible if You are Induced:

  • Make sure your helpers give you continuous emotional and physical support.
  • Actively seek comfort in response to the pain of contractions.
  • Remember that your body knows how to give birth.
  • Visualize your baby rotating and descending through your birth canal.
  • Keep moving and changing positions as much as possible.

Did you have Pitocin during your birth? How did it affect your experience? What advice can you give to other moms who may have Pitocin?

Induction and the Holidays: Part 2

In case you missed the first post in this special holiday series, we are talking about induction and the holidays. Women may feel the pressure to schedule an induction if their due date falls on or near a major holiday. Pressure can come from all sides — care givers, family, and even from within. If you’re feeling the pressure to schedule an induction that is not medically necessary, we urge you to do your homework and ask questions.

Today, we’re talking about where to find the best, evidence-based resources on induction.

Resources for Information on Labor Induction

Childbirth Connection – Childbirth Connection is a not-for-profit resource center dedicated to helping women and health care professionals make informed maternity care decisions. Among the many topics on their site, they have an in-depth section called “Induction of Labor.” Questions addressed include medically necessary reasons for induction, tips for avoiding induction, and the safest point in pregnancy for babies to be born.

 

March of Dimes – March of Dimes is a not-for-profit group that helps moms have full-term pregnancies and researches the problems that threaten the health of babies. March of Dimes has a resource on their site that explains why at least 39 weeks is best for your baby, including detailed information on the important development that babies undergo in the final weeks and days before they are born.

 

ACOG – The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is the organization responsible for developing guidelines by which most OB/Gyn offices are expected to follow. Their site offers a basic FAQ section on labor induction that, most notably, states, “Unless a problem occurs, labor induction is not done before 39 weeks of pregnancy.”

 

If you’re looking for more information on induction and would like to talk to an expert, Lamaze International is hosting a live web seminar on December 12 called, “Is Labor Induction Right for You?“ During this one-hour interactive session, you will:

1. Receive unbiased, research-based information to help you in your decision-making process regarding labor and elective induction.
2. Interact with a professional Lamaze educator and other expectant parents.
3. Learn about indications for induction and what to expect during labor induction.
4. Discuss “talking points” to aid communication with your care provider on induction of labor.

Whether you’re facing induction or considering it, we urge you to learn more to make the best decision for you and your baby.

 

Induction and the Holidays: Part 1

Throughout the rest of this month and December, Giving Birth with Confidence will be posting information on inductions. Why now? Well, if you are pregnant and due around one of the major holidays, you might be feeling the pressure to induce so that you’re not giving birth on Christmas day, for example. We want to give you some solid reasons to think twice about induction as well as information to use if your care provider or well-meaning family and friends start mentioning the “i” word.


Is Your Baby Due on a Holiday? Don’t Be Pressured into an Early Delivery!

In the rush of the holiday season, most people worry about on-time delivery of important gifts and packages for friends and loved ones.  But if you’re a pregnant woman due around the holidays, there’s an added worry about when your baby will arrive.

Around the holidays, many pregnant women experience pressure from family or their healthcare providers to “schedule” their baby’s birthday around festivities and travel plans.  Be aware, however, that scheduling a baby’s delivery without a compelling medical reason can put your baby at risk.

“Few doctors want to be pacing the halls on Thanksgiving or Christmas, waiting for a mother to deliver,” said Marilyn Curl, CNM, MSN, LCCE, FACCE and president of Lamaze International.  “So it’s not uncommon to see a surge of women with normal pregnancies being told that there might be an issue and that they should consider scheduling the delivery, coincidentally, right before a holiday.”

It’s not just your healthcare professional who may try to rush your baby’s arrival.  Families often can feel stressed about the uncertainty of the baby’s arrival and feel it may compromise the celebration of holidays.  Some women also fear that their preferred healthcare provider won’t be available and will agree to a scheduled early delivery to guarantee that their provider will be available for the birth.

“I really understand that pressure.  You build a relationship with your care provider over the course of a pregnancy.  Plus, you build up expectations about your holiday celebration.  So it seems like ‘no big deal’ just to get the birth over with,” said Sue Galyen, RN, MSN, HCHI, LCCE, FACCE, a Lamaze childbirth educator from Brownsburg, IN.  “But it’s so hard to think that a scheduled delivery, whether through induction or cesarean, was worth it when either the mother or baby experiences a complication as a result.”

One complication of scheduling your baby’s birthday is that often, baby is delivered just a little too early.  A growing body of research shows that giving a baby those last few weeks or days inside the uterus can be crucial to the baby’s health.  Babies born even a “little” early face risks including breastfeeding difficulties, learning and behavioral problems, breathing problems, increased chance of time in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and risk of death.

You can play a key part in driving down avoidable prematurity.  “Red flags” that might signal being pressured into an unnecessarily early delivery include:
• The care provider suggests that the baby is too big and will be easier to deliver “a little early”
• The suggestion is made that the care provider won’t be available for a holiday delivery or will be “booked up”
• The timing of the delivery is centered on travel and celebration schedules
• Holiday stress is driving feelings of wanting to get the pregnancy “over with”

Here are some things you can do if you feel you are being pressured into an early delivery:

  • Ask your provider if you need to make a decision right now.  If not, ask why not?  Few decisions need to be made on the spot unless the mother or baby are clearly doing poorly.
  • Research your options.  Use credible sources of information, like LamazeChildbirth ConnectionMothering Magazine’s online forum or your doula to see what the research says and talk to other moms about their experiences.
  • Make a pro/con list.  Label your pros and cons with “medical” vs. “personal” and weigh the “medical” pros and cons more heavily.  If you are talking about a major medical intervention like cesarean or induction and you don’t have a good list of cons, it’s a good sign that you need to do more research.
  • Trust your gut.  Your instincts are geared to protect you and your baby from risk.  Listen to what your gut is saying in the context of the research.
  • Find support.  It’s hard to disagree with your health care provider, so be sure that you go into your appointments with someone who can help you have an informed, evidence-based conversation about your best options.

Inducing labor without a compelling medical reason is one of many routine interventions that has not proven a medical benefit to mothers and babies and can impose harm.  Other common routine interventions include continuous fetal monitoring, coached pushing, being positioned on your back during labor, requiring repeat cesarean surgeries for women with a prior cesarean and separating mothers and babies after birth.

You can learn more about the Lamaze Six Healthy Birth Practices by enrolling in a Lamaze childbirth education class and visiting www.lamaze.org/healthybirthpractices.

10 Tips for Avoiding a First-Time Cesarean

By Jessica English, CD(DONA), LCCE

More and more women in the United States (and around the world) are having cesarean births. A recent study from the Yale University of Medicine showed two main reasons for the rise: more c-sections in first-time moms and lower rates of VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean).

For your first baby, what can you do to reduce your chances of an unnecessary cesarean birth? We’ve identified 10 areas where you can be proactive and stack the deck in your favor.

1) Hire your provider wisely. This point is number one for a reason – it’s critical. In most practices, you could have any one of several doctors or midwives. You get whoever is on call when you go into labor. It’s helpful to know your practice’s cesarean rates. The labels “obstetrician,” “family doctor” and “midwife” don’t necessarily tell you what you need to know about your provider’s philosophy. Some doctors practice more like midwives, and some midwives practice more like a stereotypical doctor. Will they have a toolbox of natural techniques or only medical tool to help you if your labor is complex? If you’re not sure which doctor or midwife to choose, ask a doula. Doulas see all kinds of births with many different practices, and they will be happy to make a recommendation of a provider with a low cesarean rate and good bedside manner.  If you find out that your provider is not supportive, it is never too late to switch, even if you are just a few weeks or even days before your due date.

2) Hire a doula. Simply put, doulas make birth better, and there’s research to prove it. A meta-analysis of studies shows that women who use a doula are 26 percent less likely to have a cesarean birth, among other dramatic benefits. Having continuous support from a friend of family member can be helpful too, but the best results come when women hire an outside doula, according to a recent Cochrane Review. What exactly is the doula magic? The research hasn’t pinpointed the magic, but I think the unique combination of physical, emotional and informational support, plus gentle advocacy makes a huge difference. Doulas help women feel safe and comfortable so the hormones of labor can work at optimal levels, positioning ideas and tricks can help babies work their way out, and evidence-based information and help communicating with the medical staff can help women have their best chance inside a system that doesn’t really promote natural birth.

3) Take an independent natural childbirth class. It’s not so much that you need to know a lot about giving birth, but many women (and men) need to undo what society has taught us about birth. Independent classes are usually longer and more in-depth, with more interaction and less lecture. A good instructor can help increase your confidence in your body and help you trust in the normal birth process. An independent Lamaze-certified instructor will base her class on the six Lamaze Healthy Birth Practices, a wonderful resource that lays the groundwork for the best possible birth. Another benefit of an independent class is that your teacher works for you. She can teach you how to advocate for yourself within the system, without having to worry about what doctors, administrators or anyone else might think.

4) Avoid induction unless there’s a serious medical problem. As a first-time mom, some studies show that simply walking in the door for an induction of labor doubles your risk of a cesarean. Doubles it. That’s huge! Avoiding induction is never more important than with a first baby. But if you must be induced for a medical reason, call on your natural childbirth instructor and your doula (remember them?) to help you with tips to keep it as normal and natural an experience as possible, even with the unexpected circumstances. If mom and baby are not in immediate danger, low-and-slow inductions can result in a better chance of a vaginal birth, but you’ll need great support on the journey.

5) If having your baby in the hospital, stay home at least until strong, active labor. Your independent childbirth instructor will teach you how to recognize active labor. If you follow the common hospital recommendation to “come in when contractions are five minutes apart, at least a minute long, for at least an hour,” most women having their first baby will be very early in labor. The intensity of contractions is a much better guide than the timing. The more hours you are at the hospital before your baby is born, the higher your risk of intervention (including a cesarean). In her book “Pushed: The Painful Truth About Childbirth and Modern Maternity Care,” Jennifer Block tells the story of a hospital in Florida that lost power after a major hurricane. A generator kept the essentials running, but there was not enough power for air conditioning. They wanted to save resources and keep laboring women cool, so for a full week they turned away any woman who was not in full-blown, active labor. Their emergency cesarean rates during that week dropped dramatically.

6) Avoid an epidural, at least in early labor. Research is a bit mixed, and not all studies have been high quality. But still, the best evidence available does seem to show that epidurals, especially when women get them early in labor, do increase the cesarean rate in first-time mothers. Childbirth Connection is a great resource for information on the benefits and risks of epidurals. There are rare times, of course, when getting an epidural can actually help a woman have a vaginal birth, if she simply doesn’t have the strength to go on. Every labor is different. But an epidural also makes it harder for a baby in a bad position to move into a better one, it limits your ability to move, and it requires a lot of other interventions (IV, continuous monitoring, bladder catheter, etc.). Your doula and your independent childbirth class may give you enough natural tools so that you won’t even need the drugs. Most women don’t.

7) Read only the best childbirth books. Get these books, and read them cover-to-cover. Seriously, throw away “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” and dive into these wonderful books instead.

• “The Official Lamaze Guide: Giving Birth with Confidence,” by Judith Lothian and Charlotte Devries (the book that inspired this blog!)

• “Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth,” by Ina May Gaskin

• “The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth,” by Henci Goer (Written in 1999, this book is due for a revision, but it’s still excellent information and routine procedures and hospital technology have not changed much since that time. Henci also runs a helpful Q&A forum on the Lamaze International web site, so you can ask the expert yourself.)

• “Your Best Birth: Know All Your Options, Discover the Natural Choices, and Take Back the Birth Experience,” by Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein (they also offer a great web site and community)

And while you’re at it, buy the DVDs “The Business of Being Born” and “Orgasmic Birth” – they’re even on Netflix. That’s right, I’m recommending “Orgasmic Birth.” Stretch yourself a little!

8) Get your partner on board. It’s hard to do this alone, you need support! Even with the best doula, your partner is still an integral part of your birth journey. Penny Simkin’s book “The Birth Partner: A Complete Guide to Childbirth for Dads, Doulas and All Other Labor Companions” is a great place to start. Be sure your partner attends that independent childbirth class with you – sometimes partners benefit even more than moms from that information and support.

9) Consider an out-of-hospital birth. It’s possible, with the right support, to have a great first birth in the hospital – even a vaginal birth without pain medication. As a doula I see them fairly often, and you should definitely choose the hospital if that’s where you feel safest and most comfortable. But the best research is pretty clear that your odds of a vaginal birth are better outside of the hospital: at home or in a birth center. In 2005 the British Medical Journal published a large study that looked at home births in the United States attended by Certified Professional Midwives. The women who gave birth at home had similar outcomes to low-risk women who had hospital births in terms of safety for moms and babies. But just 3.7 percent of the women who had their babies at home transferred to the hospital for a cesarean, while 19 percent of the low-risk women who had their babies in the hospital ended up with c-sections. The current cesarean rate in the United States is 32.9 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Many studies have shown similar results, which makes out-of-hospital birth at least worth considering.

10) Believe in your body! The cesarean rate for women who birth at The Farm in Tennessee is less than 2 percent. Many industrialized countries around the world have cesarean rates of 15 percent or less. Women have been doing this for millions of years! Your body works. Birth works, in all its complex and wonderful variations. Surround yourself with knowledgeable support, of course, in case you encounter any rare and unexpected complications. But truly… trust your body. Trust birth.

 

Jessica English, CD(DONA), LCCE, is the owner of Birth Kalamazoo, which offers birth and postpartum doula services, natural childbirth and breastfeeding classes, and in-home lactation consults. A DONA-certified birth doula and Lamaze-certified childbirth educator, she teaches an 8-week series of classes called “The Best of Natural Birth.” She is the editor of DONA International’s eDoula newsletter. A longtime writer and business woman, she also works as a consultant for organizations and birth professionals.

 

Considering Induction? Learn Your Bishop’s Score

If your care provider suggests an induction, the first step is to determine if it truly is necessary for the health of you and/or your baby. While the practice of induction is common in the U.S. medical establishment (it occurs in more than 22% of births), research shows that it is not always necessary (as in the case for a suspected large baby).

When discussing induction with your care provider, one of the first questions to ask is, “What is my Bishop’s Score?” The Bishop’s Score is a set of scores, ranging from 0-13, given before a woman is in labor to assess her likelihood of success with labor induction. The Bishop’s Score looks at the following parameters: the baby’s position and station, and the consistency, effacement and dilation of a woman’s cervix. Additional points are given or subtracted for preeclampsia, prior vaginal deliveries, a pregnancy that is postdates, fist-time pregnancy and early or prolonged rupture of membranes. The higher the score, the more favorable a woman’s body is for induction and less likely that birth will end in cesarean surgery. A score of 5 or less generally indicates that induction is unlikely to be successful.

Find our your Bishop’s Score using the standard scoring chart (also available as an iPhone app!).  Discuss the score with your care provider and ask about your options. If your score is low, ask about the risks of waiting for your body to become more favorable for induction or for labor to start on its own. If your care provider insists on inducing, consider seeking a second professional opinion.

Healthy Babies Are Worth the Wait

Source: PRNewswire-USNewswire

Every week of pregnancy is crucial to a newborn’s health, and today, the March of Dimes unveiled a new public education campaign to raise awareness about the important development that occurs during those last few weeks.

The campaign, called “Healthy Babies Are Worth the Wait,” encourages women to allow labor to begin on its own if their pregnancy is healthy. It aims to dispel the myth that it’s safe to schedule a delivery before 39 weeks of pregnancy without a medical need.  

Babies born after 37 weeks of pregnancy are full-term. However, new research has shown that a baby’s brain nearly doubles in weight in the last few weeks of pregnancy. Also, important lung and other organ development occur at this time. And, although the overall risk of death is small, it is double for infants born at 37 weeks of pregnancy, when compared to babies born at 40 weeks, for all races and ethnicities.

“Some women mistakenly think that the only thing a baby does during the last weeks of pregnancy is gain weight, making labor and delivery more difficult,” said Judith Nolte, a member of the March of Dimes national Board of Trustees and former editor-in-chief of American Baby Magazine Group, who worked with the March of Dimes to develop the new awareness campaign. “When the moms in our focus groups learned about the important brain and organ development that occurs, they were more than willing to put up with their own discomfort so their baby could get a healthy start in life.”

Only 25 percent of women know a full-term pregnancy should last at least 39 weeks, according to research published in the December 2009 issue of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

“Women may feel worried, anxious, or simply uncomfortable near the end of their pregnancy.  But unless there are medical complications, the healthiest and safest place for that developing infant is in the womb,” said Eve M. Lackritz, M.D., chief of the Maternal and Infant Health Branch, Division of Reproductive Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who outlined the health consequences of an early birth. “Term labor and delivery are not just normal and natural – they’re the healthiest alternative for both the mother and the infant.”

Information about the new Healthy Babies Are Worth the Wait educational campaign can be found at marchofdimes.com/39weeks.

The March of Dimes is the leading nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health.  With chapters nationwide, the March of Dimes works to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality.  For the latest resources and information, visit marchofdimes.com or nacersano.org. For free access to national, state, county and city-level maternal and infant health data, visit PeriStats, at marchofdimes.com/PeriStats.