Thursday, February 23, 2012

Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait

On Tuesday, I was invited to the Kick Off for March for Babies presented by the local chapter of the March of Dimes.  My mom and Samantha both attended with me and we were seated at a table with some really nice women.

One of the new ad campaigns the March of Dimes is running is called "Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait" and addresses the misconception that a baby born at 37 weeks is getting the same healthy start as one born at 39/40 weeks gestation.

A big part of their campaign is directly related to recent research indicating the health risks of having a baby too soon, even if you are considered "full-term."

Why at least 39 weeks is best for your baby

This article is for women thinking about scheduling their baby's birth.

More and more births are being scheduled a little early for non-medical reasons. Experts are learning that this can cause problems for both mom and baby. If possible, it's best to stay pregnant for at least 39 weeks. If your pregnancy is healthy, wait for labor to begin on its own. You can help get the message out with your own Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait T-shirt.

We know you can’t wait to meet your baby face to face. But getting to at least 39 weeks gives your baby the time he needs to grow. There are lots of important things happening to your baby in the last few weeks of pregnancy. For example, your baby's brain and lungs are still growing.

You might not have a choice about when to have your baby. If there are problems with your pregnancy or your baby's health, you may need to have your baby earlier. But if you have a choice and you're planning to schedule your baby's birth, wait until at least 39 weeks.

Why babies need timeBabies born too early may have more health problems at birth and later in life than babies born full term.
Here's why your baby needs 39 weeks:
  • Important organs, like his brain, lungs and liver, get all the time they need to develop.
  • He is less likely to have vision and hearing problems after birth.
  • Babies born too soon often are too small. Babies born at a healthy weight have an easier time staying warmthan babies born too small.
  • He can suck and swallow and stay awake long enough to eat after he's born. Babies born early sometimes can't do these things.
Why scheduling an early birth can be a problem Experts are learning that scheduling an early birth for non-medical reasons can cause problems for mom and baby. For example:
  • Your due date may not be exactly right. Sometimes it's hard to know just when you got pregnant. Even with an ultrasound, your due date can be off by as much as 2 weeks. If you schedule to induce labor or schedule acesarean birth (also called a c-section) and your date is off by a week or two, your baby may be born too early.
  • Inducing labor may not work. If your labor is induced, the medicine your doctor or certified nurse-midwife gives you may not start your labor. When this happens, you may need to have a c-section.
  • A c-section can cause problems for your baby. Babies born by c-section may have more breathing and other medical problems than babies born by vaginal birth. (Most babies are born by vaginal birth. The mother's uterus contracts to help push the baby out through the vagina, also called the birth canal.)
  • C-sections can cause problems in future pregnancies. Once you have a c-section, you may be more likely in future pregnancies to have a c-section. The more c-sections you have, the more problems you and your baby may have, including problems with the placenta.
  • A c-section is major surgery for mom. It takes longer for you to recover from a c-section than from a vaginal birth. You can expect to spend 2 to 4 days in the hospital after a c-section. Then you'll need 4 to 6 weeks after you go home to fully recover. You also could have complications from the surgery, like infections and bleeding. So it's important to stay in touch with your health care provider even after you go home.
The March of Dimes Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait™ education campaign and obstetric provider groups advise that you wait until at least 39 weeks to induce labor or have a c-section if it is needed. Wait this long unless there are medical problems that make it necessary to have your baby earlier.
The Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait™ education campaign was developed in response to the growing number of inductions and c-sections prior to 39 weeks for non-medical reasons. Campaign messaging is not intended for mothers who have their babies early for medical reasons or who go into early labor on their own

I know how hard those last few weeks of pregnancy is.  The waiting.  The wondering about every single twinge and if today will be the day baby is born.  The anticipation of what or who baby will look like.  The aches and the pains.  The feeling of just being done.

Kaitlyn was born 3 days after her due date.  I felt like those were the longest 3 days of my life.  How could she not know her time was up?  How could she not realize that?  Why wasn't she being born yet?  What could she possibly be waiting for?  And why couldn't I be one of those lucky moms that went in at 37 weeks and spared myself the last 3 weeks of aches and pains and swollen feet and stretch marks.

Obviously, my pregnancy with Matthew taught me a lot about patience in pregnancy.  Obviously when we, or my body, thought it was time to be born was far too soon.  And everything possible was done to prolong delivery.  Every Monday was a big deal, it was another week, it was progress, it was a chance at life.  A week meant the entire world.  And sometimes I wonder if we would have hit 35-36 weeks and he would have been "pre-term" instead of premature if it would have made a difference in his life span.

By the time I was "full term" with Samantha, I had just spent 37 weeks terrified that I would go into preterm labor and she would end up with a NICU stay.  Then, when the p17 shots ended, I was convinced I would go into labor at anytime and was taken off of baby aspirin to prepare for delivery.  Baby aspirin stays in your system for 2 weeks.  At 38 weeks, I was constantly on edge.  Terrified.  I thought for sure that my body was just gearing up to create a blood clot that would cause her to suffer from fetal demise.  I used the doppler anytime I thought she was moving sluggish or differently.  It is the only reason I opted for a repeat cesarean.  Even so, we waited until 39 weeks and 3 days to give her the absolute best possible chance at life.

I understand not everyone has the luxury of getting to 39 weeks.  And mommy and baby's health should always come first.  And no matter what you do to try and get to 39 weeks, your baby may not stay put. 

We should all be proud of the job our body's do to create a life, nurture it and allow it to grow and form.  We should be proud and supportive of how far we get in pregnancy, and know that it isn't anything that you did to cause your baby to be born too soon if you unfortunately are in that position.  We should embrace our stretch marks, relish in the last days of baby kicks and enjoy the awe of impending childbirth.  

But, encouraging baby to be born early just because you're sick of pregnancy, isn't the answer.  I wish more doctors would educate their patients on why waiting is so important!

Want to help get the word out and give more babies a healthy start?  Just donate to our March for Baby's team, Matthew's Team!


LauraJane said...

This is what my doctor is asking us to do... To get to 39 weeks with this pregnancy if possible. I just don't know if I psychologically have it within me (not the waiting but the worry about a rupture of my prior c-section if I go over the point I was pregnant and went into labour last time).

It's also hard because this is my second obgyn during this pregnancy and this one is the one asking me for an extra week, whereat last was satisfied in me getting to 38 weeks.

Both of these later gestations are good numbers (when compared with a premie) and of course we're hoping to just make it to this point, but it's all so difficult.

Just wanted to chime in to add it's not always a matter of scheduling for convenience or to avoid those last few swollen weeks, but a genuine anxiety and weighing-out what is best physically and psychologically, for all involved.

Denise said...

Which is why I stated the problem is when doing it for convienance and pointed out that delivering before that for the health and welfare of baby and mom is something that is bound to happen and should not be Mary with judgement.

LauraJane said...

Not sure if i wrote quite what i had intended to say... I was agreeing with you, just pointing out the delicate balance which can exist, that's all. I've read a lot of this stuff before and obviously want the best possible outcome from this pregnancy.

Convenience delivery is beyond me, it's too scary for me to even fathom people doing it early for their own benefit (though it clearly happens)