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Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait

How long should pregnancy last?  Babies are not fully developed until they reach at least 39 weeks.  Even though babies may be born before this time, babies born before 39 weeks are more likely to have problems feeding, have difficulty breathing, and they may be in the hospital for more than just a couple of days.  The last few weeks of gestation are so important for the growing baby.  In the last four to five weeks of pregnancy, the baby’s brain grows by 50%!

Sometimes the mother or baby has serious problems and a delivery before 39 weeks cannot be avoided.  But if mom and baby are both well, then it is best to wait until labor begins on its own.

The Tennessee Department of Health has partnered with the March of Dimes, the Tennessee Initiative for Perinatal Quality Care, and the Tennessee Hospital Association to lower the number of babies born before 39 weeks in Tennessee.

Tennessee also joined 47 other states in a pledge to lower the rate of prematurity by 8% by 2014.  In 2010, approximately one out of every eight infants in Tennessee was born premature.  Prematurity is one of the leading causes of why so many Tennessee infants die before reaching their first birthday.

What can you do to help us reach our goal of lowering prematurity?

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For Expectant Mothers

  • Start prenatal care as soon as you learn that you are pregnant
  • Avoid smoking and alcohol use during pregnancy
  • Talk with your obstetrical provider about when is the best time for you to have your baby
  • If your obstetrical provider recommends that you have your baby before 39 weeks, ask why!
  • Read more about why "Healthy Babies Are Worth the Wait" from the March of Dimes

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For Expectant Fathers

  • Provide support to your partner during her pregnancy
  • Help get ready for the new baby
  • Be involved! Attend childbirth classes. Attend prenatal care visits. Ask questions.

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For Health Care Providers

  • Participate in the THA or TIPQC projects related to reducing elective inductions and deliveries before 39 weeks
  • Consider instituting a “hard-stop” policy in your institution to help avoid elective inductions and deliveries before 39 weeks
  • Counsel expectant parents about the potential dangers of elective inductions and deliveries before 39 weeks

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Updated October 2012