Why Babies are Worth the Wait

By KBJR News 1

October 29, 2010 Updated Oct 29, 2010 at 10:43 AM CDT

It's already been four years since Jennifer Boyle's first child was born, but to her it feels just like yesterday.

The anxiety she felt when she went into labor 6 weeks early is still fresh in her mind.

"I remember thinking I don't want to have a preemie because I know all of the things that can happen with premature delivery," says Jennifer.

For women in similar situations to Jennifer it's medically necessary to deliver early, but obstetricians are commonly encountering healthy patients requesting to be induced for early delivery.

Doctors say the reasons they get from patients range from looming vacations, to family being in town, or just general discomfort.

"The physical exhaustion in those last couple of weeks can be a bit overwhelming for a lot of moms and that is sometimes what pushes them to ask to deliver earlier," says pediatrician Noelle Westrum.

The March of Dimes is an organization working to end premature births.

It has begun a public awareness campaign to draw attention to the dangers.

"Our initiative here is really to educate women on the importance of carrying full term and also to encourage doctors not to induce labor until 39 or 40 weeks," say Kim Parmeter with the March of Dimes.

Although 37 weeks is considered full-term, there is still critical development taking place in the last two weeks, such as brain development.

There is a dramatic difference that just a couple of weeks can make, as a baby's brain at 35 weeks weighs only 2/3 of what it will weigh at 39 to 40 weeks.

"That peak at 40 weeks that's the safest time for babies to be born. And you're still climbing that mountain at 37 weeks and you are not out of the potential for complications for that baby," says Dr. Westrum.

Other developments that occur in the final weeks of pregnancy include the eyes, ears, and lungs, along with the suck and swallow reflex.

"Feeding is really going to be a challenge to get established for those babies. Those first few days are so critical especially for a breast feeding mom to get those feedings well established," says Dr. Westrum.

Developmental delay can also be a problem.

This was something Jennifer observed in her daughter Mary.

"She didn't really walk until she was about 15 months old and she didn't roll over when she was supposed to. So there are some motor delays that we noticed," says Jennifer.

Luckily Mary has now caught up developmentally with her peers.

In the meantime, Mary got a little sister named Clair.

Now Jennifer is busier than ever, but loving every minute of it.

"They are really starting to interact with each other now because Clair is almost one and she is getting into Mary's stuff so they are very normal little sisters and it will be fun to watch them grow up," says Jennifer.

Growing up healthy and strong.

Both St. Luke's Hospital and Essentia Health now have policies prohibiting elective inductions before 39 weeks.