|NEWSRoom | Source: AWHONN|
Women’s Health Professionals Need to Educate Patients about Health Risks of Early Term Birth
More pregnant women are electing to induce labor before term, putting their babies at risk for significant health issues related to early birth in ways they often aren’t aware of. Inducing labor between 37 and 38 completed weeks gestation can carry significant health risks for newborns. In “Early Term Birth: Understanding the Health Risks to Infants,” an article in the April/May issue of Nursing for Women’s Health, the clinical practice journal published by the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN), Debra Vela Craighead, MSN, RN, discusses these health risks and the important role women’s healthcare professionals play in potentially improving outcomes.
The health risks for infants associated with an elective early term birth include:
+ Greater chance of dying early;
+ More likely to need care in the neonatal intensive care unit;
+ Problems breathing, including needing a ventilator;
+ Problems feeding, including coordinating sucking and swallowing; and
+ Increased need for special educational interventions later in life.
“Early term delivery is, to many people, a convenience of modern life and some pregnant women eagerly accept it because they are not aware of the potential risks to their infants,” said AWHONN’s Chief Executive Officer Karen Peddicord, PhD, RN. “This is why nurses need to educate themselves and expectant mothers about the increased risks in both the immediate and long-term period for babies born before 40 weeks gestation.”
Nurses can improve health outcomes for moms and babies through education and intervention by:
+ Asking hospital-based and other childbirth educators to include fetal development and early term birth health risk information in childbirth classes;
+ Providing information about the risks of early term birth to the pregnant women for whom they provide care; and
+ Educating women and healthcare providers alike about the health benefits of normal spontaneous birth and the prevention of unnecessary elective induction delivery.
Because elective induction and cesarean deliveries are the main factors increasing early term delivery rates, nurses should consider examining their hospital’s early delivery rate and advocate for measures to decrease early elective births.
In the Summer 2012 issue of AWHONN’s Healthy Mom & Baby consumer magazine, Dr. Craighead also gives new moms specific advice on caring for an early term infant, including asking for help from their nurse to start and sustain breastfeeding with these infants. Read her advice at www.Health4Mom.org.
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