While it is ideal for a woman to deliver her baby as natural labor occurs, sometimes there are medical reasons to arrange for an early delivery. However, to hurry your baby’s birth — solely for convenience and without valid medical reason — can put you and your baby’s health at risk, says Dr. Danny Younes, a board-certified OBGYN with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group.
Dr. Younes states that although some babies naturally arrive sooner, a full-term pregnancy lasting 39 weeks is what most babies need to develop fully. “During weeks 37 and 38, your baby’s lungs and brain are still developing,” he says. “Your baby’s body also gains fat during this time, which helps baby keep a healthy body temperature after delivery.”
Letting labor occur on its own allows your body to prepare for childbirth naturally, which has its own benefits, according to Dr. Younes. “Not only is natural labor usually easier and shorter than induced labor, it can also allow you to spend most of your early labor at home, moving around and staying as comfortable as you can,” he says. “On the other hand, induced labor occurs in the hospital, where you will likely be hooked up to medical equipment that can limit your mobility.”
Dr. Younes cautions that there are risks associated with having your baby induced or delivered by cesarean section before 39 weeks. “These babies are more likely to have breathing and feeding problems, have severe jaundice, and need intensive care after birth,” he says. “They have a higher chance of having cerebral palsy, which can affect movement, hearing, sight, thinking and learning. In addition, while the overall risk of infant death is low, it is higher for babies who are delivered before 39 weeks.”
When is it appropriate to induce labor?
Dr. Younes emphasizes that inducing labor is justified when it is medically necessary. “Examples of labor induction as a medical necessity include your water breaking and labor not starting, or if you are a week or more past your due date,” he says. “Pregnancy-related complications can also make an early delivery the safest choice.”
What you can do to ease your delivery
Dr. Younes offers the following tips to help you feel more in control and help your delivery go more smoothly:
- Get support during your labor. Continuous support during labor can help you shorten your labor. Support can come from a family member, close friend or trained birth assistant (a doula).
- Plan what to do and listen to yourself. Ways to cope with labor can include walking, rocking and showering. Also, trust your instincts about when to push — research shows that allowing a woman to push in the way that feels right for her works better than when someone tells her when she should push.
- Cuddle your newborn right away. Healthy newborns placed naked on their mother’s chest right after birth stay warmer and are likely to be breastfed — and breastfeed longer — than those who are taken away to be cleaned, measured and dressed.
At Sharp Rees-Stealy, we want to empower you to make well-informed choices about medical procedures and treatments for your family. That’s why we’ve made it our priority to support our doctors in helping you make smart and effective decisions by participating in Choosing Wisely®.
Choosing Wisely, an initiative of the ABIM Foundation, educates patients and doctors on selecting the most effective treatment available and avoiding unproductive, costly procedures. Sharp Rees-Stealy is the only medical group in Southern California to participate in this national campaign.