By Alexa Stanard
When the end of pregnancy is in sight, most women in their third trimester are anxious for it to end. And, given the relative ease of scheduling c-sections or inducing, parents may be tempted to move the delivery date up a few weeks here or there to have the baby on a holiday or a loved one’s birthday. But despite the increasing regularity of scheduled elective c-sections, the desire to have your baby before 39 weeks, either via elective c-section or induction, could result in serious complications for your baby.
“If your pregnancy is healthy, you should wait for labor to begin on its own,” says Dr. Scott Berns, a pediatrician and deputy medical officer and senior vice president with March of Dimes. “When I was trained, the mentality was that if a baby was a little early, they go to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU)and then they’re fine. [But] a baby’s brain at 35 weeks weighs only two-thirds of what it’s going to weigh at 39-40 weeks.”
In 2006, the March of Dimes launched an initiative called Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait, with the goal of reducing preventable pre-term births. Started in Kentucky, it has now spread to Texas and New Jersey.
“There are very important reasons why a baby should be delivered early, and it’s okay because of your safety and health as a mom or the baby’s,” Bern says. “But if your pregnancy is healthy, when you get to that 37th or 38th week and are ready to deliver, if you knew that your baby’s brain wasn’t fully developed yet, the liver was still developing, the lungs were still developing, there was a higher risk of an infection, of being admitted to the NICU—if you had those facts, then it’s like, ‘I can wait two more weeks.’”