Medical experts are concerned about the significant number of elective deliveries (C-sections and induced labor) that are being scheduled for non-medical reasons prior to 39 weeks of pregnancy. This troubling trend can lead to serious health consequences for the baby, as well as potential dangers for the mother.

Many expectant mothers are not aware of the dangers of delivering too soon. A recent UnitedHealthcare survey of first-time mothers found that more than 50 percent believe it is safe to deliver their baby before 37 weeks, even if not required because of a medical complication. However, medical research has revealed that babies born between 34 and 36 weeks are more likely to die than full-term infants and, if they survive, are more likely to have developmental delays than babies born full-term.

“Unfortunately, many expectant mothers are not aware of the risks associated with early elective C-sections and induced labor. Expectant mothers may believe that at 36 weeks they have completed their nine months of pregnancy, but Mother Nature’s formula for healthy babies is actually 40 weeks,” said Tina Groat, M.D., National Medical Director for Women’s Health, UnitedHealthcare. “Experts agree that education is important to improving health and well-being for mothers and their babies. Women should talk with their doctors about the best time to deliver in order to reduce complications.”

Women who are considering an early delivery or who receive a recommendation from their doctor to deliver prior to 39 weeks should ask the right questions before scheduling their delivery. The March of Dimes, a partner of UnitedHealthcare in promoting healthy pregnancies, suggests the following:

* About early delivery:

-Is there a problem with my health or the health of my baby that may make me need to have my baby early?

-Can I wait to have my baby until I’m closer to 39 weeks?

* About inducing labor:

-Why do you need to induce labor?

-How will you induce labor?

-Will inducing labor increase the chance that I’ll need to have a C-section?

* About C-sections:

-Why do I need to have a C-section?

-What problems can a C-section cause for me and my baby?

-Will I need to have a C-section in future pregnancies?