A recent study conducted by a group of physicians associated with the March of Dimes organization points out that considering babies term at 37 weeks may not be such a good idea after all. There seems to be new evidence that suggests that the outcome for a baby born after less than 37 completed weeks of pregnancy is significantly different for one born after 38 completed weeks.
The study proposes that the phrase “late preterm” be used when describing neonates born between 37 0/7 weeks and 38 6/7 weeks because of the new research which states that babies born during this period suffer from increased mortality and neonatal morbidity when compared to children born later in the pregnancy. (via the unnecesarean)
Why is this a concern?
Many women find the end of pregnancy uncomfortable and exhausting. They and their family members have been waiting for months and they are anxious to finally meet their new baby. Women frequently request that their doctors deliver their baby once they've reached term, which many believe to be 37 weeks. Doctors are frequently happy to oblige to an induction or a cesarean section before the due date is reached. However, a baby that does not reach full gestation and initiate spontaneous labor may face severe complications.
Complications of non-medically indicated deliveries between 37 and 39 weeks:
- increased NICU admissions
- increased transient tachypnea of the newborn
- increased respiratory distress syndrome
- increased ventilator support
- increased suspected of proven sepsis
- increased newborn feeding problems and other transition issues
- Morbidity rates double for each gestational week earlier than 38 weeks
New research shows that those last weeks of pregnancy are more important than once thought for brain, lung and liver development. And there may be lasting consequences for babies born at 34 to 36 weeks, now called "late preterm."
A study in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology in October calculated that for each week a baby stayed in the womb between 32 and 39 weeks, there is a 23% decrease in problems such as respiratory distress, jaundice, seizures, temperature instability and brain hemorrhages.
A study of nearly 15,000 children in the Journal of Pediatrics in July found that those born between 32 and 36 weeks had lower reading and math scores in first grade than babies who went to full term. New research also suggests that late preterm infants are at higher risk for mild cognitive and behavioral problems and may have lower I.Q.s than those who go full term.
What's more, experts warn that a fetus's estimated age may be off by as much as two weeks either way, meaning that a baby thought to be 36 weeks along might be only 34.
Timing of Fetal Brain Development: cortex volume increases by 50% between 34 and 40 weeks gestation, brain volume increases at a rate of 15mL/week between 29 and 40 weeks gestation
Don't believe it when your doctor tells you he can tell by ultrasound that the baby is nice and big and so ready to come out -- ultrasound for measuring the baby's weight can be 1-1.5 lbs off!
And please please please do not ask your doctor to perform an induction or cesarean section once you've reached "term at 37 weeks." Baby is ready to come when he/she comes!