Early Elective Delivery
Elective Early Deliveries (EED) are scheduled cesarean sections or labor induced before 39 weeks, specifically between 37-38 weeks.
Data strongly demonstrates that early elective deliveries—scheduled cesarean sections or medical inductions performed prior to 39 weeks of gestation without medical necessity—carry risks to both babies and mothers.
Risks for the Baby
- The baby may have problems with oxygen supply if the umbilical cord is compromised.
- Babies born before 39 weeks of pregnancy have a 63% greater chance of death within the first year of life compared to babies born between 39 and 41 weeks.
- More likely to have vision and hearing problems after birth.
- Less likely to be able to suck, swallow, and stay awake long enough to eat after birth.
- If preterm induction doesn’t work, it can lead to cesarean delivery. Cesarean delivery can cause increased risk for breathing and medical problems for the baby.
- Complications can arise from the baby’s organs not being fully developed. A baby’s brain at 35 weeks weighs only ⅔ of what it will weigh at 39-40 weeks. The brain is still forming all the connections necessary for coordination, movement, and learning. The baby’s lungs and liver are also still developing — early birth may cause the baby to have breathing problems and jaundice.
- Babies born before 39 weeks of pregnancy are at a 20% higher risk for birth complications, including breathing problems and cerebral palsy.
- Other complications:
- Increased NICU admissions
- Increased transient tachypnea of the newborn (TTN)
- Increased respiratory distress syndrome (RDS)
- Increased ventilator support
- Increased suspected or proven sepsis
- Increased newborn feeding problems and other transition issues
- Increased risk for pulmonary hypertension
Risks for the Mother
- Increased risk for infection
- An elective early-term delivery requires induction, which involves medication or procedures to help start labor. This can lead to a prolonged labor requiring deliveries with instruments such as forceps or a vacuum and may cause infection or hemorrhaging.
- Preterm induction can lead to uterine rupture in the mother, which causes serious bleeding.
- If preterm induction doesn’t work, it can lead to cesarean delivery. Cesarean delivery can cause complications in future pregnancies and increases the chances of a future cesarean delivery and problems with the placenta.
- It takes longer to recover from a c-section than from a vaginal birth (2-4 days in the hospital followed by 4-6 weeks recovery at home).
- Potential complications from the c-section surgery include infections and bleeding.
- Stronger and more frequent contractions
- Increased risk for postpartum depression
How does your hospital rate for EED’s? Our Birthing Center Safety Ratings can help.
For additional information and resources about EED check out, The Leapfrog Group, a national nonprofit patient safety watchdog.