Campaign Promotes 39 Weeks As Best For Baby

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Not all babies surprise us with their arrival. Over the past 20 years, the number of inductions - where labor is started for mom - and C-sections has more than doubled.

The trend has given birth to new problems. Dr. Sue Hall, a neonatalogist in Stormont-Vail's NICU, says the past thinking was that a baby born at term - anywhere from 37 to 40 weeks - would be fine. However, new studies are showing births at 37 and 38 weeks carry an increased risk for the fetus.

Hall says, as scheduled deliveries increased, so have the number of babies in the NICU. The risk of death for a baby born at 37 weeks, while still low at 4 in every 1000 births, is twice as high as a baby born at 39 weeks.

New research shows just how much happens in those extra weeks, including brain growth. A baby's brain at 35 weeks is two thirds the size it is at 40 weeks.

Hall says, in addition to brain growth, those extra weeks also are critical for lung development, gaining weight to help baby stay warm when they're born and neurological maturation for functions such as strengthening the suck and swallow that helps baby eat well.

The new evidence spurred the March of Dimes to launch its "39 Weeks Campaign." Moms thinking about delivering before that time, or whose doctor suggests it, should ask why. Hall says maternal health problems, such as high blood pressure or diabetes, or risks to the fetus, such as a baby not growing well, could prompt the doctor to decide the benefits of delivering early may outweigh any risks.

If a mom's body naturally goes into labor after 37 weeks, Hall says, don't worry. She says that's usually a sign baby is ready. Natural deliveries, she says, tend to have better outcomes.

Hall says women should call their doctor right away if they go into early labor, especially before 37 weeks, since babies born prematurely have even greater risk of complications.


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