US stillbirth rates unchanged after move to discourage elective deliveries before 39 weeks

The recommendation to delay delivery of otherwise healthy infants until at least the 39th week of pregnancy does not appear to have increased stillbirths in the United States, according to a study by researchers at the National Institutes of Health and other institutions. These findings contradict an earlier study that raised the concern that waiting until 39 weeks could lead to more stillbirths.

Research has shown that foregoing delivery before 39 weeks, either by induced labor or via cesarean, when there is no medical reason to deliver early lowers the chances of newborn illness and death. Yet one study linked a policy in a large hospital group of avoiding such optional, or elective, deliveries before 39 weeks to an increase in stillbirths in its patients.

Now, after analyzing national infant birth and death statistics over several years, NIH researchers have concluded that efforts to prevent elective deliveries are not linked to an increase in stillbirth on a national level.

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