A leading coalition of experts are warning moms to avoid elective inductions before 39 weeks gestation as a spike in earlier inductions has led to thousands of babies being put at risk for admission to a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), and life-long health problems.

“Hospitals, health plans, providers, and communities need to do more to protect women and babies from this harmful practice,” said Leapfrog Group CEO Leah Binder, whose organization released the data from 773 hospitals that demonstrates the dramatic rise in elective inductions before 39 weeks and the subsequent health issues.

“Women need to protect themselves by refusing to schedule their baby’s birth before 39 weeks without a sound medical reason, and by knowing the facts about the hospitals they plan to birth at,” she said.

Hospital induction rates for those releasing data are available at: www.leapfroggroup.org/tooearlydeliveries.

Experts, including those from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), Childbirth Connection, the March of Dimes and the nurses of AWHONN, caution that the amount of time a baby needs to develop fully, which includes having a fully developed brain and other organs, is at least 39 completed weeks.

The last few weeks of pregnancy are critical to a baby’s health because important organs, including the brain and lungs, are not completely developed until then, said Alan R. Fleischman, MD, senior vice president and medical director of the March of Dimes. “A baby’s birth should not be scheduled before 39 weeks of pregnancy, unless their health care provider says it’s medically necessary.”

Also see: Go the full 40 weeks

Thanks to SwaddleDesigns for their support of this skin to skin article


The Association of Women's Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN) promotes the health of women and newborns.

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