Healthbeat Report: Keeping the due date

January 13, 2011 8:38:00 PM PST
It's been assumed that bringing baby into the world a little early is no big deal, but that opinion is changing and some hospitals are taking action.

Apparently, Aliyah Marie Padilla wanted to be a 2011 baby.

She blew off her December 31 due date, and came into the world on January 4.

That's not exactly how mom wanted it, but she wasn't about to challenge Mother Nature.

"If there was no good reason to induce me I would rather wait," said mother Noemi Elizondo

That's just the attitude the University of Illinois Medical Center wants more expectant moms and physicians to adopt. It's among six hospitals in the state taking part in a March of Dimes program calling for a halt to elective deliveries before 39 weeks.

At one time, many in the medical community thought it was OK to deliver a few weeks early. Now newer studies are suggesting otherwise.

A normal pregnancy lasts 40 weeks but it is not unusual for women to naturally go into labor early and medical problems can also cause early delivery.

The majority of these babies do just fine, but rousting a baby from the womb between 36 and 38 weeks for convenience may not be worth the risk.

"At 37 weeks, only 1 to 2 percent of those babies actually have issues. Some of it is less than that, but those babies are the ones you worry about," said Dr. Jennifer Ahn, and obstetrician and gynecologist at UIC Medical Center.

Overall, the risk is small but health complications can include breathing problems, feeding difficulties, jaundice or temperature instability.

Researchers say it has become clear that the last few weeks of pregnancy are very important for a baby's growth and development.

"Even if the lungs are mature the baby's brain is still developing the baby still has to develop," Ahn said.

Barbara Wilson-Clark was scheduled for a C-section for medical reasons, but she agreed baby Kya would wait till 39 weeks.

"I just thought that was the greatest idea," Wilson-Clark said.

At Loyola University Medical Center, another new program is underway to keep a close watch on late pre-term babies.

The hospital is used to taking care of the tiniest of babies, preemies who are expected to have problems

Loyola also recognizes the dilemma; often, pre-term babies are treated the same as full term babies but they, too, can have health complications.

"It does take a good two, three days for us to identify those concerns and that is why it is important to monitor those babies the first few days and keep them here for at least 48 hours," said Dr. Ramzan Shahid, a pediatrician at Loyola University Medical Center.

Babies born less than 35 weeks will go to the neonatal intensive care unit. Babies 35 weeks and older who are stable can stay with mom but will be closely monitored.

The hospital also encourages patients and physicians to let a pregnancy run its full course if there is an option.

"I say don't fool Mother Nature, (but) if we can keep that baby till 39, weeks lets do it," said Dr. Jonathan Muraskas, with neonatal medicine at Loyola.

The risk is small but there is also research showing babies born three to six weeks before their due date are more likely than full term babies to have disabilities or developmental delays in kindergarten.

Edward Hospital in Naperville is among the Illinois hospitals taking part in the March of Dimes program, and doctors also point out a risk associated with going more than a week past the due date.

March of Dimes

Loyola University Medical Center

University of Illinois at Chicago Medical Center