Why a full-term pregnancy is better

You’ve made it to eight or nine months. You’re probably a bit uncomfortable. It’s hard to bend, your back aches, and your ankles are huge. You want that baby out of there. But keep in mind, carrying your baby to full term is the best thing for both of you.

Though a full-term pregnancy used to be defined as 37 weeks or longer, new studies show that a full-term pregnancy should be defined as 39–41 weeks. So when you hit 37 weeks, don’t resort to induced labor unless it’s absolutely necessary. Having your baby too early can lead to serious problems.

Evidence suggests that babies born at 39 weeks and beyond, generally do very well and have significantly fewer problems than babies born prior to 39 weeks. Erlanger does a wonderful job ensuring there is a medically appropriate rationale for delivering a baby prior to 39 weeks.

Potential risks to your baby.

During the last few weeks of your pregnancy, your baby is still developing key organs such as the brain, lungs, and liver. In fact, babies’ brains grow by 33% during weeks 35–39. During this time, your baby develops layers of fat under the skin to stay warm after birth. If born early, your baby could develop problems associated with any or all of these organs.

Babies born in the early term are not only more likely to have jaundice and to stay in the hospital, but they also run risks of developing future problems or disabilities related to:

  • Vision and hearing
  • Sleeping
  • Sucking and swallowing
  • Breathing and respiratory system
  • Blood sugar
  • Infection
  • Learning

Potential risks for you.

To induce labor, providers choose from a variety of medications and techniques in order to ripen or soften the cervix and start contractions. Medications may include IV Pitocin or ripening medications such as vaginal prostaglandins (dinoprostone or misoprostol). Similar to naturally occurring labor, sometimes the contractions caused by these medications can be very painful.

According to a study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the average labor time for first-time moms undergoing an induced labor was 14.5 hours, compared with 10 or 11 hours for those that went into labor naturally.

There are cases in which these medications or techniques fail to induce labor. When this happens, doctors are often forced to perform a C-section — a major abdominal surgery — to remove the baby.

A C-section frequently requires an extended hospital stay, longer recovery time, and an increase in the likelihood that you will have to have another one with future pregnancies. The more C-sections you have, the more potential for problems — including infections and uterine issues.

If you decide to schedule the birth.

Remember, the best possible solution is to allow your body to go into labor naturally. It can be hard to tell when conception actually occurred. Even with an ultrasound, your due date can be off by up to two weeks. If you choose to schedule the birth, and your date is off by one or two weeks, your baby may be born too early.

That said, some women don’t have the option of waiting for a spontaneously occurring labor. If there are problems with your pregnancy or with your baby’s health, you may need to have your baby early. But if you have a choice, try to schedule your baby’s birth at 39 weeks or later.

Talk to your doctor about your birth options and to set up a birth plan that will help ensure your and your baby’s health and safety. Discover maternity care that makes you feel right at home at Erlanger East Hospital.