Nashville, TN – As the minutes in 2012 tick away, expectant families may wonder if their bundle of joy will be a New Year’s Day baby. When that occurs naturally, it creates an extra memorable experience.
But the Tennessee Department of Health warns families should never push to induce delivery on special days such as holidays or birthdays, or to make the delivery date arrive more quickly, as that choice can affect the future health of some babies.“Unless there is a strong medical need to induce labor, we always recommend the birthing process should begin naturally,” said Michael D. Warren, MD, MPH, TDH Maternal and Child Health director. “Shortening the time a baby is developing in the womb can create a range of short and long-term health risks. If more parents understood these risks, we believe many would forgo a trendy birthday to increase the likelihood of a better life for their child.”
For most women, at least 39 weeks is the recommended time of gestation. Babies born earlier are at risk for respiratory distress, jaundice, hypoglycemia and other conditions; they may require more health care in the first year of life; and they are at greater risk of death in the first 28 days and in the first year. A baby’s brain at 35 weeks of development weighs only two-thirds of what it will weight at 39-40 weeks, so every additional day in the womb is important.
“Healthy babies are worth the wait,” Warren said. “We’re seeing studies that show some babies born short of their normal due date are at increased risk for developmental delays by the time they reach kindergarten age. These may include cognitive, language, physical and social-emotional development. These conditions can foster additional challenges in later years. When you balance the risks of inducing versus not inducing, for many it’s best to let nature take its course.”
TDH has partnered with March of Dimes, the Tennessee Hospital Association, the Tennessee Center for Patient Safety and the Tennessee Initiative for Perinatal Quality Care to reduce elective inductions and deliveries in Tennessee before 39 weeks gestation.
Tennessee has also joined 47 other states in a pledge to lower the rate of prematurity by eight percent by 2014. In 2010, approximately one out of every eight infants in Tennessee was born premature. Prematurity is one of the leading causes of infant mortality in Tennessee.
The mission of the Tennessee Department of Health is to protect, promote and improve the health and prosperity of people in Tennessee. For more information about TDH services and programs, visit http://health.state.tn.us/.