Posted: May 05, 2013 6:00 AM
Fifteen million babies worldwide are born too soon each year -- and many of these premature births are preventable. Elective induction of labor may sound appealing, but your baby's development is worth the wait. Find out how to avoid the seduction of induction and planned C-section for non-medical reasons so your baby has the best possible chance of being full-term.

Late preterm is still premature

A baby is full-term when she's born after 37 completed weeks of pregnancy.

According to The March of Dimes, more than 70 percent of premature babies are born between 34 and 36 weeks. They recommend waiting until 39 weeks before scheduling an induction or C-section for non-medical reasons.

There's a reason why pregnancy usually takes 40 weeks. Your baby's brain and lungs are still developing, so even inductions closer to 37 weeks aren't risk-free. Late preterm babies may still have medical problems.

Sure, it makes life easier to know when your baby will be born. And, you wouldn't be the first mom who's just over it near the end of the third trimester. Some moms want to schedule a C-section because they're afraid of labor pain. But what about recovering from major abdominal surgery and the risks that come along with it? Not to mention having to feed and take care of a baby? When labor is over, it's over.

There are medical reasons for inductions before 39 weeks, like high blood pressure, diabetes or if your baby is growing too slowly. Tired of being pregnant or wanting to plan your baby's birth date? Not so much.

What you can do to lengthen baby's stay

There are no guarantees during pregnancy, but there are things you can do that can help reduce the risk of a premature birth:

  • Take a multivitamin with folic acid -- the sooner the better -- even before you conceive.
  • Reach a healthy weight before getting pregnant.
  • Don't smoke, drink alcohol or use recreational drugs.
  • Get regular prenatal care.

Talk things over with your doctor or midwife

While many inductions and planned C-sections are done by a mother's request, some healthcare providers are quick to induce labor. Talk about your options early and often -- especially if your periods were irregular or if you're unsure of your last menstrual cycle and date of conception. And remember to ask two important questions if faced with induction, C-section or any other intervention:

  1. Is my baby okay?
  2. Am I okay?

If the answer to both is yes, then you can choose to wait.

Having a full-term, healthy baby is worth it.

Read more

Stay comfortable during the third trimester
Inducing labor: What you need to know
The third trimester: A guide to your baby's development