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Is It Worth It?​

Reducing Elective Deliveries Before 39 Weeks

​Learn why allowing baby to remain in the womb until at least 39 weeks, if possible, is safest for both baby and mother​.

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​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Let baby set the deliv​​ery date.

  • You can avoid or reduce many health risks for the mother and the baby by waiting until 39 weeks of pregnancy to deliver, if there is no medical reason to deliver earlier.
  • Research shows that the fetus goes through a significant amount of lung, liver, and brain development between 37 weeks and 39 weeks of pregnancy.
  • Your due date could be off​ by up to 2 weeks, which means if you have your baby before 39 weeks you could actually be having it early.
  • Research shows that delaying delivery until 39 weeks of pregnancy or later—if there is no medical reason to deliver earlier—is not associated with increased rates of ​ stillbirths​.1​

Is It Worth It? (4-minute video)

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​​Why should I wait until ​​at least 39 weeks of pregnancy to deliver?

  • Babies born at or after 39 weeks of pregnancy face fewer health problems.
  • Babies' brains, lungs, and liver continue important development until 39 weeks.

What are the risks to my baby and to me if I deliver without a medical reason before 39 weeks of pregnancy?

Risks to the baby: 

  • May need to stay in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU)
  • Birth complications, including breathing problems and cerebral palsy
  • Developmental disabilities, such as attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • A 63% greater chance of death within the first year of life compared to babies born between 39 weeks and 41 weeks2

Risks to the mother: 

  • Postpartum depression3
  • Stronger and more frequent contractions4
  • Need for a cesarean delivery and its outcomes, including risk of infection, longer recovery time, and the possible need for cesarean delivery in future pregnancies5​

What questions should I ask​ my health care provider?

  • Are there any medical reasons that I might need induced labor before 39 weeks?
  • What are the potential complications for my baby of elective induction?
  • What are the potential complications for my own health?
  • How do you tell when my body is ready for labor?
  1. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. (2015). Press Release: U.S. stillbirth rates unchanged after move to discourage elective deliveries before 39 weeks. Retrieved December 3, 2015, from https://www.nichd.nih.gov/news/releases/Pages/110915-stillbirth-rates-unchanged.aspx.
  2. ​Fleischman, A.R., Otnuma, M., & Clark, S.L. (2010). Rethinking the Definition of "Term Pregnancy." Obstetrics & Gynecology, 116(1), 136–139. Retrieved November 8, 2015, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20567179.​
  3. Koroukian, S.M. (2004). Relative risk of postpartum complications in the Ohio Medicaid population: Vaginal versus cesarean delivery. Medical Care Research and Review, 61(2), 203–224. Retrieved November 8, 2015, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15155052.​
  4. March of Dimes. (2012). Why at least 39 weeks is best for your baby. Retrieved November 8, 2015, from http://www.marchofdimes.com/pregnancy/getready_atleast39weeks.html. ​​External Web Site Policy
  5. ​March of Dimes. (2012). Why at least 39 weeks is best for your baby. Retrieved November 8, 2015, from http://www.marchofdimes.com/pregnancy/getready_atleast39weeks.html​. External Web Site Policy
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