WHAT IS CONSIDERED AS FULL TERM PREGNANCY
WHEN IS PREGNANCY CONSIDERED FULL TERM?
Your pregnancy will be considered full term at 39 weeks. Thus it is recommended not to schedule the delivery of the baby before 39 weeks unless of course there is a medical emergency to do so.
Usually, a pregnancy lasts about almost 39 weeks or 280 days from the first day of a pregnant woman’s last menstrual period. The medical practitioner will use this calculation to estimate the date of delivery.
At times it is a good idea to go for a C-section instead to wait for the labor to begin. This is at times the best thing for the mother and the baby.
It is important for experts to know the gestational age at which most babies are developed enough to be considered to be healthy born. Thus this helps the caregivers and gives them confidence that they are not scheduling the delivery too early.
All babies who complete this 40 weeks period are considered full term.
Earlier there was an assumption that babies who were born between 37 and 42 weeks were all likely to be born healthy. Thus a full term pregnancy according to experts was considered at 37 weeks.
In the year 2013, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM) both reviewed and improved on the research and came to a decision to change the full term pregnancy term to 39 weeks.
WHAT IS THE REASON BEHIND 39 WEEKS TO BE CONSIDERED FULL TERM PREGNANCY?
39 weeks is considered full term pregnancy because according to researchers babies who are born at 39 weeks were healthier and had less medical complications than those born at 37 weeks. Also, it was found that babies born at 40 weeks were not healthier than those born at 39 weeks.
According to a study which looked at the outcomes of more than 46 million deliveries occurring between 37 to 41 weeks it turned out that babies who spent two more weeks in the womb of the mother were healthier.
Spending two more weeks allowed the newborn brain, liver, and lungs to mature more fully thus reducing the chance of any medical complication. Also, it was discovered that babies delivered in the 39th or 40th week were less likely to have hearing or vision-related complications. These babies were healthier and could easily swallow and suck at birth as compared to those born before 39 weeks.
Also, the baby’s gestational age could be off by as much as 2 weeks even if the mother had an early ultrasound to date the pregnancy. In case the mother schedules the delivery before 39 weeks then the baby is less likely to be fully healthy and developed. This can lead to further complications.
At times caregivers schedule the delivery before 39 weeks just for the sake of convenience rather than medical reasons. The expecting mothers at times want to avoid labor and the pain of delivery and thus the delivery is preponed.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM) want to make it clear that the delivery should only be planned before the 39th week in case of any complications cropping up or of if the pregnancy would put the mother or the baby at a risk.
WHAT SHOULD A MOTHER DO IF SHE GOES INTO LABOR BEFORE THE 39TH WEEK?
In case of water breaks or contractions coming early, some deliveries take place before the 39th week and this cannot be avoided. In case the mother goes into labor in between the 37th and 39th week the caregiver should not delay the labor as most babies who are born in this time period are healthy and fine.
Also, it is advisable to wait until the 39th week if the mother wants to schedule a C-section.
Thus simply put the risk of early delivery is not too great but the mother would not like to put the baby at risk if she can avoid it. Thus waiting till the 39th week is the best option.
IS IT RISKY FOR THE MOTHERS PREGNANCY TO GO PAST 41ST OR 42ND WEEK?
The chances for complications and health issues of the baby tend to increase past the 41st week. Also, the caregiver will most likely require you to come for testing just to make sure that the baby is healthy and in no risk. A biophysical profile or a nonstress test might also be conducted. In case the test shows that the baby is not thriving than in that case the caregiver will decide and implement an induced delivery.
The risk for the mother and the baby increase considerably if the pregnancy goes beyond the 42nd week. Thus the caregiver will ant the mother to deliver by the 42nd week latest. At this time the baby may receive less amount of oxygen and nutrients from the mother as the placenta begins to degrade and also the amount of amniotic fluid becomes less which compresses the umbilical cord.
There is also a higher chance of stillbirth after the 42nd week as the baby might become too huge for it to come out of the vagina of the mother.
Thus the caregiver should recommend an induced delivery in case the mother does not go into labor by the 42nd week.
IS IT BENEFICIAL FOR THE BABY TO STAY IN THE MOTHERS WOMB AS LONG AS POSSIBLE?
Well, the answer to this is NO. As per research if the baby stays in the uterus past 41 weeks it is not good for the mother and the baby. That is the reason why the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM) have now defined a full term pregnancy as one that lasts between 39 weeks, 0 days, and 40 weeks, 6 days.
All the babies who are born within this window have a high chance of being healthy as compared to babies delivered later or earlier.
According to labels developed by the two organizations 37 weeks, 0 days to 38 weeks, 6 days is considered early term.
39 weeks, 0 days to 40 weeks, 6 days is considered full term. 41 weeks, 0 days to 41 weeks, 6 days is considered late-term and 42 weeks, 0 days and beyond is considered post-term.