Pregnant? Patience May Benefit You and Your Baby

Susan Curling, M.D., M.B.A., Chief Medical Officer, Memorial Hermann Northeast Hospital | 8/27/2014, 12:25 p.m.
We, women, love our babies, but pregnancy…not as much. Particularly when the Texas summer seems to direct its heat and ...
Memorial Hermann Northeast Hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit has the ability to care for premature babies with a gestational age as young as 28 weeks, including the capability to provide conventional mechanical ventilation. For children who need a higher-level of care, it also has the support and resources of Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital by ground ambulance or via Memorial Hermann Life Flight®. The anesthesiologist for their delivery, Chief Medical Officer Susan Curling, M.D. holds twins, Cody (left) and Dean. Tom Broad, Memorial Hermann Northeast Hospital

HOUSTON - We, women, love our babies, but pregnancy…not as much. Particularly when the Texas summer seems to direct its heat and humidity specifically at us, we are ready to deliver and hold that little one in our arms.

In the past, many women expected to be induced two weeks before and no longer than two weeks after their term. But, just like any living organism, your body and your baby develop at their own rates. Medical research shows there are more objective ways of determining when you are ready to deliver.

Your doctor may use a pre-labor scoring system called a Bishop score, or cervix score, to objectively evaluate your readiness for labor. It is also used to assess the odds of a spontaneous pre-term delivery.

A Bishop score is a combination of several different things from your physical exam:

Cervical dilation (how far the cervix has opened so far)

Cervical effacement (how thinned out the cervical walls are)

Cervical consistency (how soft or firm the cervix is)

Cervical position (whether the cervix is pointing forwards or backwards relative to the vaginal walls)

Fetal station (how far down the baby is in the pelvis)

A score of five or less is a major risk factor for cesarean delivery. In a study of 6,721 first-time moms in the Intermountain Healthcare System, 26.3 percent of elective induction patients with a score of four were forced to deliver by a cesarean section; about a third with a score of two or three; and more than half with a score of one.

In other words, if you are not sufficiently developed, then an elective induction may significantly increase your risk of cesarean section.

Most mothers and babies do well after a cesarean section, but you do face a longer recovery, greater cost, and a delay in your ability to return to normal activities or work. It is definitely major surgery and does carry more risk than a normal vaginal delivery. These risks include infection of the incision or the uterus; heavy blood loss; organ damage; blood clots in the mother's legs or lungs; injury to you or your baby; and problems from the anesthesia, such as nausea, vomiting, and severe headache.

For your baby, contractions of labor during a vaginal birth help prepare his or her lungs to breathe air. The compression of the baby’s thorax pushes out the amniotic fluid during the birth process and helps to prepare the lungs to breathe air. Babies born by caesarean section have a higher risk of respiratory distress syndrome than babies born vaginally.

In addition, the National Partnership for Women & Families reports babies born vaginally generally have a lower risk for some serious childhood diseases like asthma and allergies, and are less likely to become obese. A 2008 European s found that babies born vaginally had a 20 percent lower risk of developing type 1 diabetes than babies born surgically. Researchers have also found babies born vaginally receive protective bacteria as they pass through the birth canal. These bacteria head to the baby’s intestine and are important for developing a balanced immune system, from childhood right through to adulthood.