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Can Inducing Labor at Full-Term Lead to a Birth Injury?

Published on June 15th, 2018

full term pregnancy birth injuryAsk any pregnant woman at 40 weeks whether she is ready to deliver her baby and chances are she would give a resounding “yes.” Some women, however, find themselves having to wait a little longer to meet their infant. Then the question becomes: At what point is inducing labor in the best interest of the mother and child? Could inducing labor at full term lead to a birth injury?

Identifying the Length of a Healthy Pregnancy

At one time, a term pregnancy was defined as lasting between 37 and 42 weeks. This five-week period was considered a safe time for most babies to be born. However, infants are still developing critical brain and lung function in the late weeks of pregnancy, and 39 weeks has been deemed the optimal time for gestation so your baby can grow properly.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM) have redefined the definitions of the length of a pregnancy:

  • Early term: Baby is born between 37 weeks, 0 days and 38 weeks, 6 days.
  • Full term: Baby is born between 39 weeks, 0 days and 40 weeks, 6 days.
  • Late term: Baby is born between 41 weeks, 0 days and 41 weeks, 6 days.
  • Post-term: Baby is born after 42 weeks, 0 days.

The goal in giving new definitions to the end weeks of pregnancy is to help more babies be born healthy by preventing early births that are scheduled for non-medical reasons. Ideally, in a healthy pregnancy, the best course of action is to wait for labor to begin naturally and on its own.

When a Pregnancy Goes on Too Long

When a pregnancy reaches late term, an obstetrician needs to determine the safest course of action for the mother and baby. Waiting to give birth after 41 weeks may slightly increase the risks of a baby dying shortly before or after birth. Complications such as meconium aspiration syndrome – the meconium in the baby’s intestines passing into the amniotic fluid because of the intestines contracting – can occur.

Any fetal distress, from the baby being overdue to decreased oxygen to difficult labor, threaten the health of the baby. Improper monitoring or handling of emergency situations during pregnancy and delivery can lead to a birth injury, often because of problems with the umbilical cord or placenta and the baby not getting enough oxygen or blood.

Inducing labor at full term, however, can be just as dangerous as waiting for the natural progression of labor in late-term pregnancy.

Risks and Benefits of Inducing Labor

Giving birth may seem like a natural act that a woman’s body is prepared to achieve, but labor and delivery are major medical events. Medical intervention is sometimes necessary to ensure that the baby and mother are kept safe at the culmination of the pregnancy.

Inducing labor can be necessary in some situations but, in all cases of induction, there are risks. The baby’s heart rate could lower and there is an increased likelihood of infection for mother and baby. Weighing the pros and cons are a heavy responsibility for an obstetrician, and a critical decision to maintain the good health of mother and baby.

Recent trials, however, have found that inducing a pregnant woman beyond 41 weeks of gestation is safer than waiting for labor to begin on its own. Induction at late term is associated with fewer perinatal deaths, stillbirths, and C-sections.

Did Your Child Suffer a Brain Injury During Birth?

If your child suffered a brain injury during birth, or the mother’s health was negatively impacted because of medical negligence in late-term pregnancy or during labor and delivery, you deserve to be compensated for your suffering. Discuss your situation with a Michigan birth injury lawyer to learn more about compensation for financial and emotional struggles. Contact Thurswell Law for a free consultation with one of our experienced, knowledgeable, and successful attorneys. We do not charge any fees unless you collect. Call (248) 354-2222 today.

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