Nearly 4 Percent Babies in the U.S. Born Before Full-Term

First Posted: Jun 21, 2014 10:01 AM EDT

New research says that nearly 4 percent of the babies born in the U.S. are delivered before full term and that these deliveries happen without any medical reasons.

A University of Minnesota study has highlighted who are the people going in for early elective deliveries i.e. between 37-39 gestation weeks, and that sometimes these are done without any medical emergency. Several researches have highlighted that labor induction or cesarean deliveries without any medical reason before a baby is full term at 39 weeks , or an early elective delivery, triggers adverse health issues in both mothers  as well as the babies.

This study conducted in collaboration with researchers at the  Children's Hospital Philadelphia, assessed the data linking birth certificates with hospital records for all births in California, Missouri and Pennsylvania between 1995-2009.  Nearly 20 percent of all U.S. births were represented by the three states and they included a variety of socio demographic as well as geographic regions.

"Our study showed that early elective deliveries made up more than 3 percent of U.S. births each year over the past 20 years. This may seem to be a small number, but with 4 million births a year in the U.S., each percentage point represents 40,000 babies," said Kozhimannil. "In addition, we showed that there are important sociodemographic differences in the chances a pregnant woman has an early elective cesarean or an early elective induction of labor."

The researchers noticed women of age 35 years or older and whites with higher education levels had a higher chance of having an early elective induction. The chances were also high among women who were privately insured and among those who gave birth at rural and nonteaching hospitals.

On the other hand, the risk of early elective cesareans was high among those who were less than 20 years old or who were older than 35 years. 

"There are misunderstandings about when a baby is ready to be born," said Kozhimannil. "Since our findings show there are differences in who is having an early elective delivery, the importance of a full-term birth needs to be communicated to all women, not just those who may traditionally be considered high risk for elective procedure or high risk for poor outcomes."

According to the study researchers, a pregnancy is full term only after 39 weeks.

Those infants who are born by early cesarean are nearly 60 percent more vulnerable to have a longer stay at hospital and have a two-fold risk of suffering from respiratory distress  compared to the infants who are born after 39 weeks. 

The finding was presented in the journal Medical Care.

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