Expert Advice

Why Induce Labor Prior to 42 Weeks Pregnancy for a Healthy Pregnancy?

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You’re healthy and happy, even though you’re a week past your due date. Then doc hits you with another outdated practice – you have to have an induction prior to 42 weeks. Whatever for?

Even if your birth plan says that you don’t want labor to be induced, here’s a moment where birth plan could take a second seat to standardized care.

Know your care provider’s position on this. Ask: if my pregnancy is low risk and baby and I are healthy, what’s your policy about inducing before 42 weeks?

In 2013, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM) defined pregnancy:

  • Early Term: 37 weeks 0 days – 38 weeks 6 days
  • Full Term:   39 weeks 0 days – 40 weeks 6 days
  • Late Term:   41 weeks 0 days – 41 weeks 6 days
  • Postterm:     42 weeks 0 days and beyond[i]

Doctors fear that the aging placenta no longer supports baby well. Prof. Harold Fox disagrees that placentas age any faster than their baby[ii]. He says placentas grow and produce DNA until baby is born, even beyond 42 weeks gestation.

Studies showed that babies in hospitals die less if they’re born before 42 weeks. But research also says the risk for babies at 42+ weeks is very small, that fetal deaths were rare. It even says that women should be told this[iii].

pregnant woman holding belly in front of house

Why are healthy, low-risk women forced into induced labor?

Your due date is an educated guess based on the date of your last menstrual period (LMP). But that LMP date could be off a little, changing the 42 week date.

Variations in ovulation could throw off the due date calculations[iv]. If you have long or irregular menstrual cycles, this is especially likely. Often, ultrasound is used to estimate fetal growth and figure out the due date. Though that may be the best guess, it’s still just an educated guess.

Because of genetics, the women in your family may have longer gestational periods than average. In fact, it seems that both mother’s and father’s genes could contribute to it[v].

Even the World Health Organization (WHO) says that inducing at 41 weeks 6 days is easier, but not always best. It’s easier because women are in the hospital where they can be monitored. But if baby’s gestational age isn’t certain, then inducing before 42 weeks isn’t the best policy[vi]

It’s baby’s hormones that signal her mama to start labor[vii].

When baby’s progesterone receptors decline in function, inflammation begins. Complex biological interactions stop mom’s progesterone production and start labor contractions.

Starting labor before baby’s ready robs them of development time in utero. Every day counts for babies growing brains and bodies.

Planning your birth means planning with your care provider to be your advocate, as long as you’re healthy. Your birth plan should state that. Be sure it’s tucked in your hospital bag!

[i] http://www.acog.org/About-ACOG/News-Room/News-Releases/2013/Ob-Gyns-Redefine-Meaning-of-Term-Pregnancy

[ii] http://fn.bmj.com/content/77/3/F171.full#ref-25

[iii] http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD004945.pub3/abstract

[iv] http://www.uptodate.com/contents/postterm-pregnancy-beyond-the-basics

[v] http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1471-0528.2011.03154.x/abstract#.TskicfonjV0.twitter

[vi] http://apps.who.int/rhl/pregnancy_childbirth/complications/prolonged_pregnancy/lgccom/en/index.html

[vii] http://press.endocrine.org/doi/abs/10.1210/me.2009-0016

To learn more about birth and pregnancy, download our free Birth Plan eBook now. After three years of research, collaboration with more than 100 childbirth experts and resource centers from Healthy Child Healthy World to the American Association of Neonatal Nurses, the Best Ever Baby Birth Plan Guide is available for a free download.

This new resource for pregnant families is a compilation of top tips and advice from more than 20 nationally-recognized experts in the field including renowned pediatrician, Dr. Alan Greene and GraceFull Birthing founder, midwife Elizabeth Bachner. These trusted experts offer thoughtful guidance for whatever type of birthing experience parents want, in whichever setting they choose.

 

Published: September 30, 2017 | Reviewed by: The Best Ever Baby Expert Team | Last reviewed: September, 2017

Sabriga TurgonWhy Induce Labor Prior to 42 Weeks Pregnancy for a Healthy Pregnancy?

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