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Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait

Thursday, November 08, 2012 | 03:44am

Tennessee Department of Health, Partners Work to Reduce Early Elective Inductions

NASHVILLE – Any parent or expectant parent will tell you nine months is a very long time to wait to meet a new baby. But research shows the final weeks of pregnancy are crucial to a baby’s development. The Tennessee Department of Health is working to educate health providers and parents that “Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait” for a full-term, 40-week pregnancy.

“Many doctors were taught a baby who makes it to at least 37 weeks during pregnancy was ready to enter the world, but we now know a baby’s brain grows by 50 percent during just the last five weeks of a pregnancy and an early delivery increases the risk of complications and even death for an infant,” said Health Commissioner John Dreyzehner, MD, MPH. “We want Tennessee parents and health care providers to know how vital it is to the child’s health to wait until at least 39 weeks of pregnancy whenever possible.”

In Tennessee, 30 percent of babies are born at 37 or 38 weeks gestation. In some of those cases, labor starts on its own and the babies generally turn out fine. Some deliveries are induced for medical reasons, but in other cases, delivery is induced for the convenience of the doctor or mother, known as “elective” induction or delivery. These elective early births are the focus of an intense national effort designed to reduce infant mortality and health problems among infants.

“Studies show babies born at 37 or 38 weeks are not only more likely to have difficulty breathing at birth, but are also more likely to die in the first month or year of life compared to babies born at 39 or 40 weeks,” said Michael Warren, MD, MPH, FAAP, TDH Family Health & Wellness director. “If mom and baby are both well, it’s best to wait until labor begins on its own.”

TDH has partnered with March of Dimes, the Tennessee Hospital Association, the Tennessee Center for Patient Safety and the Tennessee Initiative for Perinatal Quality Care to reduce elective inductions and deliveries in Tennessee before 39 weeks gestation. The initiative targets expectant and prospective parents, health care providers and health care facilities to educate them about the benefits of waiting until at least 39 weeks for delivery of babies. A number of hospitals across Tennessee are already voluntarily participating in this effort.

Tennessee has also joined 47 other states in a pledge to lower the rate of prematurity by eight percent by 2014 and will participate in observances of World Prematurity Day Nov. 17. In 2010, approximately one out of every eight infants in Tennessee was born premature. Prematurity is one of the leading causes of infant mortality in Tennessee.

Learn more about the Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait initiative and what you can do to reduce premature births at

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