Nearly one out of 10 babies born in Iowa are born prematurely and the March of Dimes is among the groups working to reduce the number of “elective” births that occur when a pregnancy reaches 37 or 38 weeks.

“It very much happens, more often I would like to say it happens for such things as convenience or the mother’s uncomfortable,” says Michelle Gogerty, state director for programs and advocacy for the March of Dimes.

Gogerty says for many years women were told it was fine to induce labor once their pregnancy reached 37 weeks.

“What we have learned is that would be a late pre-term and so those infants, they have additional growing that needs to occur, specifically with their brains and their lungs and their nervous systems,” Gogerty says, “so the longer the pregnancy is without risk and there’s no medical reason for an induction, we most definitely should not be getting induced.”

In 2013, national groups that represent obstetricians and gynecologists launched a “just say no” campaign to any delivery before 39 weeks, unless there is a valid medical reason for an early birth. The state director for the March of Dimes says Iowa hospitals and doctors “have been great” about this.

“But we do still see some that will deliver a woman early, for convenience sake,” Gogery says. “…But the hospitals, with the policies that are in place, are stopping that practice and so we’ve seen a drastic, drastic reduction in early elective deliveries in the state of Iowa.”

A full-term pregnancy lasts 40 weeks. The March of Dimes was formed in 1938 in response to the polio epidemic, but after the polio vaccine became available in the 1950s, the organization turned its focus on finding ways to prevent premature births and infant deaths.