In today’s hectic times, moms-to-be — and their OBGYN’s — may not think twice about scheduling an artificially-induced early childbirth for the sake of convenience. But a new study by Utah-based Intermountain Healthcare is cautioning against the practice due to elevated health risks for neonates. Research initiated four years ago shows that the need for intensive care among newborns with respiratory problems was twice as high among babies induced at 38 weeks and five times as high at 37 weeks, compared to infants induced after a full 39-week pregnancy.
The study results prompted Intermountain to decrease the number of induced births for healthy women before 39 weeks, with an eye toward reducing the health risks. As a result, fewer Cesarean sections were performed, which further reduced the risk of negative birth-related health outcomes.
Despite the important implications of the research, the news article that reported the study was titled “New baby delivery strategies help cut health costs,” which ACSH’s Dr. Gilbert Ross points out, “would only be interesting if I were a health economist, but would not grab my attention if I were a pregnant woman or her doctor — and that’s who should be taking heed of these warnings.”
Though the absolute risk of early induced childbirth may be fairly small, the current data should provide doctors and their patients food for thought since delivering a baby even one or two weeks ahead of schedule is fraught with needless complications, adds Dr. Ross.