More than half of all births in the state of Oregon are delivered by elective induction or C-section. As of September 1, 2011, Oregon will no longer allow doctors to plan delivery before 39 weeks gestation unless the birth is medically necessary. Vanity deliveries have been increasing in popularity. Parents can choose the birth date, plan for a hospital stay and end the pregnancy sooner rather than later, but the cost of early birth can be astronomical. Children born early are at increased risk for breathing disorders, jaundice, and failure to thrive. 

While full-term is defined as 37 weeks gestation, babies should be allowed to stay in utero for as long as 42 weeks. The final weeks of pregnancy are important for development and long-term health, according to Michele Larsen of the March of Dimes. “So much more research is coming out showing how vital those last weeks are to the development to the children’s brain, liver, and lungs. It makes a huge difference.”

The “hard stop” on elective inductions and C-sections is catching on across the United States. Hospitals in at least four states, in addition to Oregon, have adopted the “hard stop” program. The March of Dimes is attempting to recruit all hospitals in the United States, though complete participation may not be a viable goal. Utah and Idaho placed a “hard stop” on elective inductions and C-sections more than 10 years ago; it is just taking a bit more time and research for other hospitals to catch up.

As of 2009, 34-percent of all live births were delivered via C-section. If induction fails, C-section is the next option, so inducing early could account for some of the increase. C-sections are major surgeries that come with major risks. Complications can lead to longer hospital stays, NICU care and increased risk of death for mother and infant. Even if a pregnancy ended in C-section at 40, 41 or 42 weeks gestation, the fetus would have more time in utero and thus the risk of health complications would be lower.

Source: Lisa Flam. MSNBC Health. 15 August 2011.