Pregnancy is a long haul: 40 weeks. While some women feel great until the very end, some expectant moms may be “ready” a whole lot sooner. The last few weeks of pregnancy can be pretty uncomfortable with symptoms like fatigue, back pain, swelling and insomnia. You may be tempted to ask your doctor to induce labor early. But, did you know those last few weeks are especially important to your baby’s development?
In the medical community, there’s a growing trend to discourage elective induction before 39 weeks. In fact, Providence doesn’t allow women to be induced before 39 weeks unless there’s a medical necessity. And, there are good reasons to back up this policy.
It’s Best to Wait
First of all, calculating your due date isn’t an exact science. Even with the most modern equipment and sharpest minds, your due date can be off by as much as two weeks. So, even if you think you’re just a few days short of 39 weeks, in reality, you might be a little more than two weeks short of 39 weeks. If you and your baby are healthy and your pregnancy is uncomplicated, it’s really best to let labor start on its own.
Plus, sometimes early induction doesn’t work and a c-section becomes necessary. That’s major surgery, which means mom is at a greater risk for complications like infection – and she’ll have a longer, more difficult recovery than with a vaginal birth. A c-section can also present problems for future pregnancies.
Last Few Weeks are Important to Development
During those last few weeks of pregnancy, your baby is working hard to hit a number of developmental milestones:
- Her brain nearly doubles in size and connections to help with coordination, movement and learning are being fine tuned.
- Her lungs are growing so she’s able to breathe on her own after she’s born.
- She’s developing her suck and swallow reflexes and learning to stay awake long enough to feed.
- She’s gaining about a half-pound per week, which will help her stay warm after she enters the world.
- Her ears and eyes are developing. Those extra weeks in the womb will mean she’s less likely to have vision or hearing problems later.
Babies born earlier than 39 weeks are more likely to spend time in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) than babies carried to term. This is hard on the baby because she’s separated from her parents. It’s hard on the parents, too. Plus, it usually leads to a longer hospital stay and greater costs.
Trusted Organizations Agree
National organizations like the March of Dimes and the National Institutes of Health believe the best health outcomes for baby – and mom – happen when a baby is born after week 39 of pregnancy. Give your new bundle of joy the most healthy start possible. And, if you’re tempted to ask your doctor to induce labor earlier, remember this from the March of Dimes: “Healthy babies are worth the wait.”
Still Have Questions?
If you still have questions, talk to your Providence primary care provider, certified nurse-midwife or OB/GYN.