Malpractice News

September 18, 2013

39 weeks gestation or later better for healthy delivery

Think a woman’s pregnancy lasts just 9 months? Think again. The generally accepted length of a “month” is 4 weeks, however, most weeks are slightly longer than 4 weeks. A pregnancy is considered full term at 40 weeks, which is actually closer to 10 months from conception. Historically, doctors have said that a baby is fully-formed by 37 weeks. This has led to the idea that any time after this date is fine for a woman to have her baby. And with modern technology, it is becoming easier for a woman to choose her due date by asking for an induction or elective C-section. This practice has risen dramatically since 1990, but doctors say this is a worrying trend.

Early delivery leads to health problems

In fact, unless it is medically necessary to do so, it’s much better to let labor start on its own and last past 39 weeks whenever possible. Dr. Catherine Spong is a pregnancy expert with News in Health, a monthly newsletter released by the National Institutes of Health. She said, “If the mother and baby are healthy, there’s no benefit to delivering the baby early.” She explained that delivering even slightly earlier than that can lead to serious and lasting health problems.

“We’ve gotten to the point where people feel they can choose the timing of their delivery. But in reality, that baby, in the last 4 weeks of pregnancy, is doing a huge amount of developing,” Spong said. Keeping the baby “baking” in the womb for as long as possible is imperative to its health.

37 weeks has much higher risks than 39 weeks

Before 39 weeks, the baby’s organs are still undergoing a huge amount of development. They are more susceptible to bloodstream infections, breathing problems, and eating problems. A study funded by the National Institutes of Health looked at 13,000 women who elected to birth by cesarean, more commonly known as C-section. Babies born at just 37 weeks “were twice as likely as those born at 39 weeks to have complications—such as difficulty breathing, heart problems and seizures—that usually require time in a neonatal intensive care unit.”

The risks of early delivery aren’t just for baby, mothers also have side effects. They are more likely to experience postpartum depression, stronger contractions during labor, and a higher risk of needing a C-section.



Site design and development by Design Spike®, Inc.