Despite wide-spread recognition that a baby reaches full-term at 39-40 weeks of gestation, nearly half of Florida consumers responding to a statewide survey indicated delivery before this time is safe. Nearly half of the survey respondents who had a baby in the past 18 months reported being offered the option of scheduling an induction or C-section by their health care provider.
The survey was conducted by the Florida Association of Healthy Start Coalitions (FAHSC), Inc. as part of a three-year effort to raise consumer awareness about the importance of the last weeks of pregnancy. Funded by the March of Dimes Florida Chapter, the “Think 39 Weeks: Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait” initiative is aimed at reducing the number of early elective inductions and C-sections in the state.
Unless it’s medically necessary, delivering before 39 weeks of pregnancy can pose risks for both mothers and babies. Both consumer demand and medical practice have contributed to increases in early elective deliveries, which have been linked to a rise in late preterm births and NICU admissions. Early delivery also impacts healthy brain development and infant morbidity. Unless there’s a medical problem, waiting for labor to begin on its own is best.
According to the March of Dimes:
- During the last six weeks of pregnancy, a baby’s brain almost doubles in size, adding vital connections needed for coordination, balance, learning and social functions.
- Babies born early have more learning and behavior problems than babies born at 40 weeks.
- Babies born early have more feeding problems because they can’t coordinate sucking, swallowing and breathing as well as full-term babies.
- Babies born early are more likely to have breathing problems.
- Babies born early are at higher risk of a sleep-related death.
More than 85 percent of the survey respondents stated that a baby is full-term at 37 weeks or more, with 60 percent correctly indicating 39 weeks or later. However, 45 percent stated that it was safe to deliver earlier than 37 weeks. Nineteen percent of pregnant respondents said their doctors presented the option of a scheduled delivery, as did 49 percent of women who recently delivered. Nearly 40 percent of survey respondents agreed with the statement, “In the last 3-4 weeks of pregnancy, a baby is already fully developed and is just getting bigger.” Despite acknowledging risks to the baby of delivering early, more than half of the respondents agreed that “it is OK to schedule deliveries a week or two before the due date as long as a pregnancy is healthy.” A majority of respondents (60+%) cited prior pregnancy complications and doctor recommendations as appropriate reasons for scheduling a delivery. Only 15 percent though convenience was acceptable. For additional findings, read the full report.
The consumer survey was implemented by Healthy Start Coalitions in Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Hillsborough, Sarasota, Lee and Santa Rosa Counties. The 276 respondents represent consumers statewide in terms of race/ethnicity; half were privately insured and half were uninsured or covered by Medicaid. Respondents were either pregnant or had delivered a baby within the last 18 months. Most of the respondents (43%) were 24-29 years old with one-third having a college education or higher.
The results of the consumer survey will be used to measure the impact of the statewide campaign which will employ a variety of strategies, including social media, to get the word out to childbearing families. For more information on the initiative, visit our homepage, continue reading our blog, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.