Early Term Births in the United States


Approximately one out of ten births in the United States is intentionally early. This is due to planning on the part of women and their Obstetricians. Many women try to schedule their deliveries so that they can coordinate childcare or have their babies delivered by a specific Obstetrician within a practice. Other women seek early deliveries to escape the discomfort of the very last weeks of pregnancy.  Technically, babies born at 38 weeks are not premature, however, they are not full term either.

Early term births may be more convenient for women and their doctors, however, there is mounting evidence that planned early births put babies at risk. Babies who are delivered early are more at risk for complications, permanent damage, digestive problems, respiratory problems and death. Scientists are also studying how early delivery can disrupt brain development.

This has gotten the attention of private insurers, health quality groups, The March of Dimes, some large hospital organizations and Medicaid.  These groups have joined together in an effort to discourage women and their Obstetricians from inducing births before 39 weeks without a pressing medical reason. There message is that if babies were supposed to be born at 38 weeks, the gestation period would be 38 weeks instead of 40 weeks.

Medicaid currently pays for 40% of births in the United States. The estimated savings to Medicaid by cutting the early induction rate by half is $483 million dollars. This is a figure that is hard to ignore.

Reducing the number of early terms births will reduce the amount of costs to the healthcare system and may serve to protect the health of unborn babies and their mothers. If you are pregnant and are considering scheduling an early birth, you may want to reconsider. For more information about the risks associated with early births, talk to your Obstetrician today.

Posted on behalf of Dr. Carlos Alarcon, Marietta OB-GYN Affiliates, P.A.