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PROM AT TERM… Some Evidence

index-14PROM AT TERM… Some Evidence  

written by Jackie Levine

 

Many define PROM as any release of waters before labor has actually begun…. whether at 32 or 42 weeks. There are recommendations about the management of PROM, but there’ is no definitive proclamation from the CDC or anywhere else  about what one “must” do to a woman after a certain number of hours have gone by without some contrax, especially at “term”.  The statistics about PROM pretty much don’t change….around the world the same % of women will go into labor and will birth  after 12-24 hours,  the same % after 48 hours, then 72 hours, etc, with the same low per centage of mothers and babies sustaining infection. 

It seems that the whole establishment is not convinced about exactly how to handle PROM, and the studies continue. You can find  ACOG practice bulletins on this at least since 2000.  The studies don’t all study things the same way….yes to pelvic exams?  No exams?  Expectant management with testing for fever or other signs of infection?  When and how?  Many mothers are really in early early labor, water breaks but there are no discernible contrax, yet the cervix is slowly slowly beginning to change.  Do these women as qualify as PROM and should they be put in the 24-hour queue? Or should they br  “classified” as being in labor, however early, which takes the “P” out of PROM…

The latest info on this is from the Cochrane, 2014. Here’s the “Background” and the “Conclusion”, followed by the citation.  This information may help mothers-to-be to make the  decision about whether to be treated according to routine, cookie-cutter care  that her OB applies to all clients with PROM at term, or to make sure that  a truly genuine  assessment of her  and her baby’s individual, actual health status is made.

BACKGROUND:

Prelabor rupture of the membranes (PROM) at or near term (defined in this review as 36 weeks’ gestation or beyond) increases the risk of infection for the woman and her baby. The routine use of antibiotics for women at the time of term PROM may reduce this risk. However, due to increasing problems with bacterial resistance and the risk of maternal anaphylaxis with antibiotic use, it is important to assess the evidence addressing risks and benefits in order to ensure judicious use of antibiotics. This review was undertaken to assess the balance of risks and benefits to the mother and infant of antibiotic prophylaxis for PROM at or near term.

AUTHORS’ CONCLUSIONS:

This updated review demonstrates no convincing evidence of benefit for mothers or neonates from the routine use of antibiotics for PROM at or near term. We are unable to adequately assess the risk of short- and long-term harms from the use of antibiotics due to the unavailability of data. Given the unmeasured potential adverse effects of antibiotic use, the potential for the development of resistant organisms, and the low risk of maternal infection in the control group, the routine use of antibiotics for PROM at or near term in the absence of confirmed maternal infection should be avoided.

Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2014 Oct 29;10:CD001807. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD001807.pub2.Antibiotics for prelabour rupture of membranes at or near term.Wojcieszek AM1Stock OMFlenady V.

Here’s another concise recent piece of information: JUNE 18, 2015/BCAYLEY Summary: For women with pre-labor rupture of membranes occurring after 36 weeks’ gestation (who do not have a confirmed infection), use of antibiotics does not appear to reduce the risks of endometritis, early-onset neonatal sepsis, maternal infectious morbidity, stillbirth, or neonatal mortality; but use of antibiotics in this situation may be associated with increased rates of cesarean delivery and maternal length of stay in hospital, and potentially could be associated with adverse medication side effects from antibiotic use and the potential for the development of resistant organisms. (In other words, avoiding antibiotic use for prelabor rupture of membranes after 36 weeks’ gestation unless there is a confirmed maternal infection, may be associated with lower risks adverse antibiotic effects, lower rates of cesarean delivery, and shorter maternal stay in hospital; without increasing the risks of any neonatal or maternal morbidity or mortality.)

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/25352443/

 

 

Thank you, Jackie! You know I, Triad Birth Doula, always enjoy sharing your articles.
Interesting thing…in my experience here in NC, I have only had antibiotics offered once for PROM, which mother refused much to the doctor’s distress.
I have had a couple of mothers become sick after 24+ hours and were then given antibiotics as soon as fever appeared. But no wonder with all of the vaginal exams, catheter and internal monitor due to pitocin & epidural.
I have a theory about avoiding PROM….
Around here, and with my clients, I feel that a sudden drop of barometric pressure is all too often the culprit of PROM. So I suggest that when we know this type of weather is going to occur, drink extra water and if safe get in bath tub. If not safe (lightening) lie down so at least gravity is taken out of the picture.
Some may laugh at me but I believe in this.

 

 

 

Obstetricians Study Themselves

It is my privilege to share another thought provoking article by Jacqueline Levine, LCCE, FACCE, CD(DONA), CLC

Your obstetrician is afraid of being sued.

imsssagesShould that fear guide the way you’re treated during your pregnancy, labor, and the birth of your baby? Should fears of litigation have a direct effect on the rate of cesarean section in our country, and should your risk of having a c-section depend on your OB’s personality?

How about best-evidence optimal maternity care? Do you believe that the maternity protocols in use by OBs reflect the best science, using “Level A” evidence-based protocols and practices? And if there’s a proven, effective training program that takes just two days and lowers c-section and morbidity rates, shouldn’t that training be in use in every hospital and everywhere women have their babies? Common sense and our general understanding of ethical behavior make us want to answer those questions with confidence, just as you think they should be answered.

The dismal truth, however, is that those questions must be answered in just the unequivocal opposite of what your good sense tells you.
The cesarean rate in the US seems to have stopped rising and has leveled off, as reported last year by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The information came from the National Center for Health Statistics, and it says, in sum: “After 12 years of consecutive increases [1998 to 2009], the preliminary cesarean delivery rate among singleton births was unchanged from 2009 to 2011”; the report cites the current rate as 31.3%. That the rate has stopped rising is good news. And that the rate is too high is not in dispute. The World Health Organization (WHO) and other orgs that promote and support optimal maternity care have been making that case for a good while.
Now, famously, ACOG has come out with a position paper, a report entitled “Safe Prevention of the Primary Cesarean Delivery”, with guidelines meant to prevent a first-time c-section; the study calls for “revisiting” the list of the “common indications” for cesarean. Those various rationales for section have held sway in maternity care for years. We understand that the new guidelines are a hard admission that the rate of surgical birth is indeed far too high, and that current practices do not promote the general health of women and babies. ACOG wants to “prevent overuse” of c-section. (See Obstetric Care Consensus Number 1, March 2014, entitled “Safe Prevention of the Primary Care Delivery”, from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologist, along with the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine.)
We should understand that the forces driving maternity care are not totally about optimizing the health of mothers and babies, but rather respond to other imperatives. Examples follow.
At the 57th Annual Clinical Meeting of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (as reported in Medscape Today; Medscape Medical News, May 12, 2009), there was discussion of an article entitled “Liability Fears May Be Linked to Rise in Cesarean Rates”. I’ll just quote it directly so that you can have the very words of the study as reported (bold emphasis is mine):
PhysiciansBenefitCopingSupport“It has been suggested that medical-legal pressures are a factor in the high number of cesarean deliveries. A number of studies have borne this out. Localio and colleagues (JAMA. 1993; 269:366-673) found a positive association between medical malpractice claims risk and the rate of cesarean delivery. Murthy and colleagues (Obstetrics & Gynecology 2007; 110:1264-1269) found an association between professional liability premiums and rate of cesarean delivery — for every $10,000 increase in insurance premium there was a 15% increase in the rate of cesarean (s)delivery. Dr. Barnhart said “First of all, I applaud the abstract, in that it quantifies a perceived problem,” “We all anticipated that defensive medicine might be a reaction to litigation, and this paper demonstrates that that is indeed the case,” “So don’t just blame the doctor for doing a C-section, recognize that there’s probably a reason that [he or she is] doing it. And that fear of litigation is the reason,” Dr. Barnhart concluded.”
This article is really a confession. It’s a way to say “You see, it’s not our fault that we have to do all these c-sections. We’re just human and fear is making us do unnecessary surgeries, just in case we get sued” and puts the OB in the role of victim. It’s “defensive” medicine…and where might this kind of medicine be taught in the medical curriculum? It’s an admission that what is being done in the way of care may be for the welfare of the OB, and not for the welfare of the women in his care. Do docs acknowledge the possible effect of malpractice insurance on birth options?
We assume that the most fundamental tenet of care is that what a doctor does is for our benefit, and not for her or his well-being, convenience or safety. We are right to feel that any doctor who picks up a scalpel and performs surgery for these “defensive” reasons is behaving in a way that is the antithesis of ethical behavior, a betrayal of our trust in the doctor-patient relationship. It’s easy for the OB to use cesarean delivery as an answer to all potential problems, to say that something might be wrong, do the surgery, and when of course everything turns out fine, mother and family are just relieved.
But should you have to give up your right to be treated according to your genuine health status, and have to risk the many documented hazards of c-section for both you and your baby, and perhaps compromise your future reproductive health to protect the personal welfare of your doc? So yes: your OB may treating you to promote his or her own personal, financial interest, since that study shows a willingness to admit that one of the reasons for the high cesarean rate is fear of litigation.
Another example: does your risk of c-section depend on your OB’s personality? Again, the answer is yes. A disturbing article, called “Women’s Risk of Having C-section May Depend on Her Obstetrician’s Personality”, discusses a study published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology in 2008. (Here is the citation: Allcock, C., Griffiths, A., & Penketh, R., The effects of the attending obstetrician’s anxiety trait and the corresponding obstetric intervention rates. Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 28(4), 390-393. [Abstract]). “Trait anxiety” is an integral and unchanging part of the human personality and is very different from “‘state anxiety’” which happens in response to a particular situation
The results of the study are very concise, and as before, quoting directly makes things abundantly clear: The obstetricians with the least anxiety had the lowest emergency cesarean rates. imagesThe obstetricians with the most anxiety had the highest rates.”
Statistical analysis revealed that the doctor’s trait anxiety levels were highly correlated with cesarean rates. It’s unlikely that the human condition and the pantheon of measureable personality traits has changed much since ’08. It’s likely that there are still discernible anxiety levels among OBs, that might cause them to react to those anxious feelings and perform sections for that anxiety.
These studies document just two of the many factors that affect a birthing mother’s chances of having a cesarean, and how many of those factors have to do with a mother’s or baby’s actual health status? Of course there’s literature that proposes other reasons for the high c-section rate, but the studies discussed here expose a side of obstetric practice that is particularly damning. Each doctor makes a choice either to treat ethically, or alternately, with regard for his/her own interests and inclinations.
Here’s some mixed news from the industry. It’s the publication of the study entitled: “Scientific Evidence Underlying the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Practice Bulletins (Wright, Jason D. MD; Pawar, Neha MD; Gonzalez, Julie S. R. MD., et al), published in Obstetrics and Gynecology in 2011”. This study examines the protocols and guidelines used in obstetric care as to their basis in good science. We can only applaud OB’s decision to examine their own guidelines and protocols, no? This quote comes from the Abstract of the study: “We examined the quality of evidence that underlies the recommendations made by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (the College)”. So far, so good
But the words that cause that frisson of anxiety are in the conclusion of the study: “One third of the recommendations put forth by the College in its practice bulletins are based on good and consistent scientific evidence.” That evidence is called “Level A”. That can only mean that the remaining two-thirds are not. That’s 70% of the care protocols used on birthing women are not based on the best science! Doctor #1What does this mean to each birthing woman? Must she be on the lookout for practices based on anecdotes, opinions, traditions and other poorly supported evidence? How will she know? And why should she ever even have to worry?
Making that point even more painfully is this study from the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine’s 34th Annual Meeting, presented February 6, 2014, with this title Training Reduces Cesarean Delivery and Neonatal Morbidity, and published online in Medscape Medical News © 2014 Feb 07, 2014. This important study needs to be quoted:
“A multifaceted intervention program for health professionals aimed at reducing the rate of cesarean delivery succeeded in doing just that, according to a new multihospital study…. “Our hypothesis was that intervention at the right time would provide the chance to improve the quality of obstetrical care and reduce morbidity. “… ” The program involved a 2-day on-site training workshop for health professionals that focused on the best clinical practices for intrapartum care…. and that did significantly reduce neonatal major morbidity (OR, 0.81; P = .028) and effect minor morbidity (OR, 0.88; P < .001). …
“This study of more than 100,000 women shows that an interventional program can not only reduce the chance of cesarean delivery, but can also reduce neonatal morbidity, noted William Grobman, MD, professor of obstetrics and gynecology-maternal fetal medicine at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.
“The important thing is that this did not involve new therapies or methods. This was totally about the delivery of health services,” Dr. Grobman told Medscape Medical News. “We often focus on new treatments, but sometimes it’s the relatively simple things — education, quality improvements, quality control, and feedback — that can substantially affect maternal and child health.”
Shall we assume that nurses and docs just don’t know “best clinical practices’ without this extra training, or forgot them, or find it inconvenient to use them? If it takes only two days of training to correct bad practices, what can we think?
Is the problem not clear? Bad practices based on less-than scientific evidence and unethical behavior and personal character traits and fear of litigation and ignorance…the “ignoring” of best clinical practices, can guide maternity care. If only a third of maternity protocols…for both mother and newborn…are based on best-evidence science, what about the rest of the care woman and their babies receive? And if that unscientific behavior can be remedied by a mere two-day course that reminds docs and nurses how to observe optimal care practices and can fix the huge problem of high c-section rates and other insults to the health of mother and baby, how can a mother make her way through this system without coming to some kind of harm? We have the words of the maternity caregivers themselves to read and ponder.
OBs are ducking questions about the morality of performing cesareans for defensive reasons, and ducking patient’s questions about best-evidence care, but somehow we have to make them face this reality: “Approximately one-third to one-half of maternal deaths can be attributed to the cesarean procedure itself.” And: “There are no well-documented prospective trials demonstrating benefit to the fetus or to the mother that would justify the extent of the increase in the primary cesarean rate.” These quotes are from Obstetrics: Normal & Problem Pregnancies, 3rd Ed. Gabbe et al. p634).
There are many caring and dedicated practicioners who stay current and give only best-evidence care. We admire the ethical caregivers who do not rely on routine interventions and who use surgery only to save the lives or health of babies and mothers, and not for their own welfare, but the high section rate illustrates the fact that they may just be a minority.

ifffmagesWe have only that one day, that one chance for each baby we birth,

so when deciding on a caregiver, it’s our responsibility to get familiar with best-evidence, optimal maternity care and question our health care provider about his/her practices. We need to learn the facts about normal, healthy birth, and conservative reasons for c-section based on real health status as well. Recommendations for OBs, hospitals and midwifery care from women across the United States can be found at the non-profit, all volunteer website www.thebirthsurvey.com Your prospective OB knows that best-evidence information is out there for you to see, so question him/her closely about his/her c-section rate, induction rate, episiotomy rate, and other routine and common practices that may not confer best-evidence care upon mother and baby. If you sense a defensive posture about his stats, or an air of reluctance to tell you what you want to know, politely say your thank-you’s, and head for the door.

Jackie-Levine“Jacqueline (Jackie) Levine, LCCE, FACCE, CD(DONA), CLC is committed to providing a continuum of care for underserved women at Planned Parenthood, on Long Island, NY, where she has provided free Lamaze education, birth and breastfeeding support to all the women in her classes for the last 9 years. She is a guest lecturer on Childbirth in the US at CW Post, has worked for CIMS, contributed to the Lamaze e-newsletter Building Confidence Week-by-Week , all after her 30-year career as a designer in the garment center. Jackie is a recipient of the Lamaze Community Outreach Award, mother of three and Grandmother of five.” Science & Sensibility

Please feel free to send comments/questions to Jackie: birthlink@optonline.net

 

VBAC Memories Part V

Kelly has shared her beautiful story about the birth of her first child and her subsequent VBACs. I know that so many of you will be able to relate to the wide range of emotions.

“I was diagnosed with pre eclampsia and put on bed rest at 30 weeks with my first child. At 34 weeks my protein levels were dangerously high, and I started to have neurological symptoms (blurred vision, headaches).  I wanted to avoid a c section, so my OB induced.  I feel like I was set up for failure.  A c section from the beginning would have been easier than three days of labor and magnesium ending in a c section. Because I was given magnesium I could not get out of bed and had to use a bed pan because they wouldn’t put in a catheter yet. The charge nurse was condescending and rude, and the entire experience was humiliating.  I didn’t have experience and had not done adequate research and just trusted what my doctors told me to do.  Sofie was in the NICU for a week, and I didn’t see her for 24 hours after she was born.  I remember the doctors in the OR discussing their vacations.  It was insulting.  They were making the biggest event in my life something routine.  I didn’t feel a connection to her and had PPD and post-traumatic stress that lingered for at least a year.  After I came home from the hospital I remember not wanting to be left alone with her.  I also remember watching a baby show after I came home.  The mother had a similar experience and someone commented that she didn’t know how someone could not feel a connection with their child.  I heard SO many times “at least she is here and healthy”.  Those comments just made me feel worse, like I wasn’t entitled to feel like the experience of child birth was taken from me. I was embarrassed for having bad feelings related to her birth, so I didn’t talk about it for a long time with anyone other than my husband.  If something touched my scar or if I felt a twinge where it was healing I would feel sick because it would bring back memories of the birth.  I remember eventually reading an article about how many times when an animal is given a c section it would reject the baby, and everything started to make sense.  When we were ready for a second baby I went back to the same OB and asked about a VBAC.  She told me that we could try labor, but if I wasn’t dilated by 40 weeks, there was no reason to push it.  I never went back there.  I went on to have a VBAC with a 10 lb 2 oz baby at 40 weeks 5 days.  I had an epidural.  His birth was so healing.  I was not dilated at all at 40 weeks…I’m so glad I switched doctors. I felt validated in my earlier feelings and was finally able to talk about it openly.  My husband’s support and understanding was a huge factor in healing from my first birth.  My third was completely natural (8 pounds 12 ounces).  I had a doula with my second and third.  Support from a doula was invaluable for me and my husband.  Just having someone who believed I could do it and was on my side gave me the extra support that I needed to have my 2 hospital VBACs.”  ~ Kelly

Your story is every bit as beautiful as you and your family! Thank you for sharing, Kelly!

Premature Rupture of Membranes & Repeated Pelvic Examines

Jacqueline Levine, a sister doula and occasional writer for  Lamaze research blog Science and Sensibility, gracefully gave me permission to post her comments about premature rupture of membranes… or PROM.

Very eye opening!!!

Hello all…There are some studies that point to the fact that repeated pelvic exams in the last month can irritate the membranes and lead to PROM at term (premature rupture of membranes), meaning labor is immanent, and mothers are close to their “due date”, but pelvic exams insert an artificial factor into the circumstances that lead to the healthy beginning of effective labor. Onset of labor may be just a few weeks or days away, but if waters break and labor doesn’t ensue, although mom is almost-but-not-quite ready, they must induce. Pelvic exams are not predictive or probative and unless there is compelling medical reason, should not be done week after week at the end of the last month. Being able to say to a mom that her cervix is softening but still not opening is nice, or to tell her that she is 50% and 1 cm is interesting indeed, but what really does it do for the process? Does it tell her when she’ll go into labor? Not bloody likely! If enough acid in the vagina is pushed to migrate upwards, or mother’s flora (or yikes! foreign germs from the glove covering the inserted hand) are forced up towards, and finally permeate the mucous plug to irritate and eventually disturb the integrity of membranes, they will respond by breaking. Now we have put another whole category of mothers onto the c-section express.

Here are some studies:
* Obstet Gynecol. 1984 Jan;63(1):33-7. Relationship of antepartum pelvic examinations to premature rupture of the membranes.

Lenihan JP Jr*
* Obstet Gynecol. 1987 Dec;70(6):856-60. Histologic chorioamnionitis in pregnancies of various gestational ages: implications in rupture of membranes.Perkins RP, Zhou SM, Butler C, Skipper BJ. SourceDepartment of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of New Mexico School of Medicine, Albuquerque.

* vaginosis and its implication in preterm labor and premature rupture of membranes. A review of the literature. Reynolds HD. Source Yale University School of Nursing, New Haven, CT

There are more studies. This knowledge has been around for a while. When, d’ya suppose, will caregivers heed some evidence-based stuff? Here’s the answer, I guess:

* Do the Medical Policymakers of Maternity Care Resist Changing Their Protocols to Reflect Best-Evidence Scientific Practices for Childbearing Women?

Olatunbosun OA, Eduoard L, Pierson RA. Physicians’ attitudes toward evidence based obstetric practice: a questionnaire survey. Br. Med. J. 316, 365–366 (1998).*
Abstract: In 1998, a questionnaire mailed to family physicians and obstetricians found that only 40% felt that evidence-based medicine was “very applicable to obstetric practice”. Concerning comments from this survey included “obstetrics requires manual dexterity more than science”, “evidence-based medicine ignores clinical experience”, and that following guidelines could result in “erosion of physician autonomy”. These views were described as obstacles to the adoption of evidence-based practices, and the authors recommended emphasis of critical analysis of the literature as part of medical education.”

Let’s let our mothers know about this and Bishop scores and give them the facts so that they can refuse pelvic exams and other procedures except for compelling medical necessity, and wait to get exams until they are well into labor and need to know whether they should be admitted!! There…I’ve said it!!!

Thank you, Jacqueline!!!

If you wish to weigh in….send your comments to

KennyShulman@aol.com

ARE YOU HAVING A HOLIDAY BABY?

 

My friends at “Preparing For Birth” posted the following…

“Induction is serious business — the holiday season is upon us — be wary of convenience labor induction to avoid a holiday birth day — knowing your bishop score can help you make this decision.”

This really got me thinking as I have several holiday babies scheduled in the next few weeks.

I started really looking at the Bishop Score to see how all of my mommies are faring at this point. And then I began to consider how care providers look at this and make their determinations.

If in the next few weeks, as these women have their next round of appointments, and their care providers start talking induction, what is my appropriate behavior as a certified DONA doula? I know it is not appropriate for me to contradict the medical professional or give any kind of advice at all. After all…I am not medically trained.

But it is within the scope of my profession to supply information so that informed decisions may be made by these future mommies.

And so…..I choose to post the Bishop Score.

Parameter/Score      0                       1                             2                       3

Position                Posterior      Intermediate       Anterior

 

Consistency         Firm              Intermediate       Soft

 

Effacement           0-30%           31-50%                   51-80%           >80%

 

Dilation                 0 cm                 1-2 cm                   3-4 cm             >5 cm

 

Fetal Station         -3                      -2                            -1,0                   +1, +2

Here’s how it works… Next time you have a vaginal examine  (at 40 weeks plus unless you really want to consider induction before full term)  you might ask your provider the following: uterine position, cervical consistency, cervical effacement, dilation, and the station of your baby.                                            You can find definitions of these terms in a good reference book such as Pregnancy, Childbirth and the Newborn by Simkin et al., or TheThinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth by Henci Goer.

“A score of 5 or less suggests that labour is unlikely to start without induction.  A score of 9 or more indicates that labour will most likely commence spontaneously.                                                                                                                                          A low Bishop’s score often indicates that induction is unlikely to be successful. Some sources indicate that only a score of 8 or greater is reliably predictive of a successful induction.”                                                                                                                   From Wikipedia

Wait a minute……I ask you to consider these two paragraphs  again. Hmmm…

Modified Bishop score

“According to the Modified Bishop’s pre-induction cervical scoring system, effacement has been replaced by cervical length in cm, with scores as follows- 0>3 cm, 1>2 cm, 2>1 cm, 3>0 cm.”

“Another modification for the Bishop’s score is the modifiers. Points are added or subtracted according to special circumstances as follows:

One point is added for:

1. Existence of pre-eclampsia

2. Every previous vaginal delivery

One point is subtracted for:

1. Postdate pregnancy

2. Nulliparity (no previous vaginal deliveries)

3. PPROM; preterm premature (prelabor) rupture of membranes

From Wikipedia

Just some things to consider.

As I always say……your body, your baby, your birth!

And Happy Holidays!!!

“Pitocin is the most abused drug in the world today.” ~Roberto Caldreyo-Barcia, MD

I feel so very sad when I see pitocin being given to a woman for induction or augmentation of labor. I will not argue that there might be legitimate times it is needed…but I still feel sad.

I always wonder if I, as a doula, have given this woman enough information about this harsh, harsh drug. Even though they say it is chemically the same as our natural drug, oxytocin, it does not treat our body, or our baby, the same. In addition, it disrupts the natural processes in so many ways.

I suppose I feel so very sad because it reminds me that I was given pitocin 33 years ago. I did not even know what was going on, much less that I had the right to ask…or dare say no.

Thank God that my child does not seem to have any side effects that are being associated with pitocin, such as ADHD or Autism. Nor does he have brain damage due to loss of oxygen when the cord became entangled as he twisted desperately against the harsh contractions. He does still have the grey patch of hair where the internal monitor was screwed into his scalp.

I, however, was not unscathed. Even though my baby was in the best of positions prior to the pitocin, as he tried to escape the drug induced  contractions, he kept landing against my lower spine. As a result, I have Degenerative Disc Disease, Arthritis, and Spinal Stenosis, all of which are progressive.

In addition, these harsh contractions kept my baby’s head pushing, pushing so very hard against my cervix, which was just not ready to open because it was just not time. The result of this violation was abnormal, pre-cancerous, cervical cells. After many procedures to prevent the path to cancer, I ultimately had a hysterectomy. It was then found that my equally violated uterus had not one, but two, tumors that had not been present prior to my labor and delivery.

No more babies for me, but at least I would be here to watch my one child grow up, get married, and hopefully have the large family he, and I, have always wanted so much.

I am not a medical doctor. I do not pretend to be one. I just feel so sad when I see a woman being given pitocin.

Kenny Shulman CD(DONA)

“Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait”

A Campaign to Carry Pregnancies to Term

By JANE E. BRODY Published: August 8, 2011

The March of Dimes opened a new campaign this summer to curb the large and growing number of otherwise healthy pregnancies that are deliberately ended early by induced labor or Caesarean delivery.

Research has clearly shown that a change in approach that emphasizes allowing babies to develop fully when both mother and baby are doing well could result in healthier babies and lower medical costs. The campaign is called “Healthy babies are worth the wait.”

What prompted the campaign is what many experts view as an alarming trend in American obstetrics — the steady rise in elective deliveries of singleton babies before 39 weeks of gestation, when fetal development is complete. Gestation is calculated from the first day of a woman’s last menstrual period. Studies have shown that as many as 36 percent of elective deliveries now occur before 39 weeks, and many of these early deliveries are contributing to an unacceptable number of premature births and avoidable, costly complications.

Although guidelines issued 12 years ago by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists cautioned against elective delivery by induction or Caesarean before 39 weeks, an overwhelming majority of new mothers and many doctors who deliver babies believe it is just as safe for birth to occur weeks earlier.

Complications

But the medical facts say otherwise. With each decreasing week of gestation below 39 to 40 weeks, there is an increased risk of complications like respiratory distress, jaundice, infection, low blood sugar, extra days in the hospital (including time in the neonatal intensive care unit), and even deaths of newborn babies and older infants.

Although tests may show that the baby’s lungs are well developed at, say, 37 weeks, research has demonstrated that the risk of newborn complications is still significantly higher than if delivery occurs two to three weeks later. In a study published last December of babies demonstrated to have mature lungs before birth, those delivered at 36 to 38 weeks had two and a half times the number of complications compared with those delivered at 39 to 40 weeks. Problems more common among babies delivered earlier in gestation included respiratory distress, jaundice and low blood sugar.

Yet in 2008 among a national sample of 650 women who had recently given birth, 51.7 percent chose 34 to 36 weeks of gestation as “the earliest point in pregnancy that it is safe to deliver the baby” and 40.7 percent chose 37 to 38 weeks. Only 7.6 percent selected 39 to 40 weeks, the true length of a full-term pregnancy, and the time when complications, including stillbirth, are least likely to occur.

Although many women think that weight gain is all that happens to babies during the last few weeks of pregnancy, Dr. Eve Lackritz, chief of the maternal and infant health branch of the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, said vital organs like the brain, lungs and liver are still developing. There are also fewer vision and hearing problems among babies born at full term.

“Babies aren’t fully developed until at least 39 weeks,” Dr. Lackritz told a news briefing in New York convened by the March of Dimes. For example, a baby’s brain at 35 weeks gestation weighs only two-thirds of what it will weigh at 39 to 40 weeks.

“If there are no medical complications, the healthiest outcome for both mother and infant is delivery at 40 weeks,” Dr. Lackritz said.

This is not to suggest that women should panic if labor begins earlier on its own. “It’s a whole different story when a woman goes into labor early than when labor is induced,” Dr. Uma M. Reddy of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development said in an interview. She explained that the labor process helps to prevent lung problems. At the same gestational age, there are fewer respiratory problems when labor occurs naturally than when it is medically induced, Dr. Reddy said.

Dr. Reddy and colleagues analyzed more than 46 million singleton live births that occurred from 1995 to 2006 and found that newborn death rates at 37 weeks of gestation were two and a half to nearly three times the number at 40 weeks and were also elevated at 38 weeks of gestation. For example, in 2006 the infant mortality rate at 37 weeks gestation was 3.9 per 1,000 live births; at 38 weeks, 2.5 per 1,000 births; and at 40 weeks, 1.9 per 1,000 births. They reported their findings in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology in June. The researchers also found that these so-called early-term births were associated with higher rates of death after birth and during infancy than were full-term births occurring at 39 to 41 weeks.

Dr. Reddy said that the textbook definition of “term pregnancy” as one that lasts from 37 to 41 weeks “is arbitrary — it has no biological basis. If a woman’s water hasn’t broken, if labor hasn’t begun on its own, if there are no medical or obstetrical problems, there’s no reason for a woman to be delivered before 39 weeks.”

The recommendation applies not just to women whose labor is induced, but also to those having a scheduled Caesarean delivery. Too often, women are mistaken about when they got pregnant, which can throw off the calculation of their due date. Even when a “dating” ultrasound is done during the first trimester of pregnancy, there can be as much as a two-week margin of error. Thus, a woman may think her pregnancy has lasted 39 weeks when it is only 37 weeks along. Or she may think she is 37 weeks pregnant when she is only 35 weeks; a delivery at that point would result in a premature birth.

Countering Early Elective Births

Dr. Reddy pointed out that “late preterm births” — between 34 and 37 weeks of gestation — in pregnancies with no complications are more common among older white women with higher levels of education who “are more likely to ask their obstetricians to deliver them before term.”

Well-educated women may be more inclined to want to schedule birth at a convenient time for themselves and other family members. Doctors, too, may suggest an elective delivery so that birth occurs at a time that best suits their schedules, including office hours and vacation times. Sometimes doctors, fearing a malpractice suit if something should go wrong if a pregnancy proceeds to term, choose to deliver babies early when they are alive and well.

To counter the avoidable complications and higher costs associated with preterm elective deliveries, beginning in January 2001 a network of nine urban hospitals in the Intermountain Healthcare system in Utah instituted a program to greatly limit elective deliveries before 39 weeks of gestation. The program included educational programs for doctors, nurses and pregnant women. However, not until strict monitoring of births was instituted by the hospitals did the rate of early deliveries drop to less than 3 percent from 28 percent, with a host of benefits but “no adverse effects” seen on the health of the mothers or babies.

A version of this article appeared in print on August 9, 2011, on page D7 of the New York edition with the headline: A Campaign to Carry Pregnancies to Term.