Americans are having shorter gestation periods, but it’s not because of biology, according to a new study.
Researchers at the Boston University School of Public Health and the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center studied thousands of births in the United States, United Kingdom, and the Netherlands and found that hospital organizational structures contributed to short and potentially unsafe pregnancies. suggests that there is a possibility.
“We found that the average gestational age in the United States has decreased by more than half a week over the past 30 years,” the study said.
In 1990, the average gestational age, the time from conception to delivery, was 39.1 weeks. In 2020, that period was reduced to 38.5 weeks for him in the US.
The study compared hospital and home births and the timing of births in three wealthy countries. Aside from shorter gestation periods for Americans, the researchers also found that home births are more common in European countries, and those deliveries usually occur earlier in the day.
“Both the UK and the Netherlands have better infant and maternal outcomes than the US, but rely heavily on midwives to provide obstetric care. It may reflect both a preference for childbirth,” the researchers said. Said.
According to the researchers, the time-of-delivery pattern was indicative of spontaneous labor, i.e., without induction or anesthesia, and the labors studied typically occurred between 1:00 am and 6:00 am.
But American births were more common in hospitals, between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., typical working hours for maternity wards.
“Because of hospital organization, allocation of human resources, and convenience of health care providers and support staff, the timing of births seems to have evolved into a more manageable pattern for maternity care systems, at least in the United States,” said the researchers. said.
Researchers suggest that because Americans rely on hospitals to give birth, the maternity care system has encouraged giving birth during convenient working hours.
In the United States, gestational age may be shortened to avoid weekends and night births, they said.
The researchers noted that previous studies have shown that “for both infants and births, not only are the outcomes worse during the evening and midnight hours, but so are the weekend outcomes.”
Research shows that Americans who give birth at home are more likely to have access to midwives and doulas and receive better prenatal care leading up to delivery than those who must rely on hospital care for their mothers. The researchers also found that pregnant women with pre-existing medical conditions that could complicate childbirth were more likely to choose hospital births compared to home options. rice field.
They concluded that in order to prioritize the health and safety of babies and births, hospitals should consider reorganizing their interventions to better align with what they consider to be “natural birth patterns.” I was.