By Meghan Raeder, RN, BSN, CLC – OB Supervisor and Certified Lactation Counselor at the Birth Center at Southwest Health
Life is full of so many unknowns. The most challenging of them comes with finding out you’re pregnant. “Will my baby be a boy or girl?” “Will they have my dimples?” But, the most common question that arises is “When will my baby be born?”
Pregnancy is divided into three trimesters that total 40 weeks. That final trimester can be rough as your body goes through various aches and pains, swelling of your feet, the lack of sleep that comes because you can’t find a good sleeping position, and last but not least, the need to run to the bathroom every couple of hours.
As the final weeks draw to a close, those sleepless nights spent sitting up in the recliner are upon you as you can no longer lay flat in your bed. The thought of having your baby sooner rather than later can sound increasingly enticing.
Recent statistics show that women in the US whose labors are being induced have doubled since 1990. Of those studied, many of them were considered elective induction. An elective induction is a labor that is brought on for a non-medical reason at or after 39 weeks. An example of this is scheduling your birth to assure you have your preferred doctor or just to make sure your labor support team is with you right when you need them. Whatever your reason might be, many first time moms like to have a plan…for everything.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologist (ACOG) guidelines state that you must be at least 39 weeks gestation based off specific criteria in order to have an elective induction.
“Prior to 2010 we thought that induction for first time moms was bad because it led to a higher rate of cesarean section. More recent and better research shows that’s not necessarily the case,” says Dr. Kim Christopher Mackey, MD, OB/GYN and Director of Women’s Health at The Women’s Center at Southwest Health. “What’s more, there is even some evidence that women preferred induction, compared to waiting for labor to start on its own.”
Cesarean section, or c-section, is a surgical delivery of your baby through an incision in your lower abdomen. The most common reasons for a c-section are babies who don’t fit out or babies who cannot handle the stress of labor. The thought of a c-section can be scary. A c-section is major surgery, requiring a longer recovery time compared with a regular delivery. Also, patients who have c-sections have a higher rate of other complications, including infection.
When things go well, the natural onset of labor and regular vaginal delivery is the most efficient way to have a baby. Having an induction of labor can mean a longer hospital stay before the delivery. The alternative, waiting for labor, only leads to a longer stay for a baby inside the mother’s belly. Induction for convenience may be a reasonable choice as early as one week before the due date, 39 weeks gestation.
Your due date is calculated at 40 weeks of gestation. If you choose to wait and let nature take its course, there is special testing recommended for all babies after 42 weeks, and some babies after 41 weeks. Most common testing is an ultrasound measurement of the amniotic fluid and a heartbeat test called NST. “Together, these tests answer the question: Is the baby still doing okay inside?” Adds Dr. Mackey, “if the tests are not reassuring, it is time to get the baby out.”
The natural onset of labor is generally shorter in duration and may increase success with breastfeeding. When you allow your body to go into labor naturally, your hormones do a better, faster job of triggering your natural production of breast milk. Additionally, your baby may come out more ready to “latch on.”
Your doctor will assure that whichever option you choose is the best option for you and your baby.
For more questions about pregnancy or the labor and delivery process visit
womens-health-center.org. To schedule a tour of our Birth Center or attend a variety of childbirth classes call (608) 348-2331.