The Importance of Waiting until 39 Weeks to Deliver
If your pregnancy is healthy and you are considering scheduling your baby’s birth, it is best to stay pregnant until 39 completed weeks.
Babies born at early term (between 37 and 38 weeks plus 6 days) are usually healthy, but they are at a higher risk for medical problems compared to babies born full term (39 to 40 completed weeks gestation).
As a result, babies born at early term have a higher risk for the following:
- Admission to neonatal intensive care unit
Babies born early term are 2 to 3 times more likely to be admitted to neonatal intensive care unit than babies born at 39 weeks.
- Breathing problems
Due to their lungs not being fully mature, babies born early term may need help breathing. They may receive oxygen by nasal prongs or by being connected to a machine called a ventilator.
- Temperature control problems
Babies born early term may spend time in an incubator (warming area) to keep their body temperature stable. Your baby does not have enough fat deposits beneath his/her skin to keep warm outside your womb.
- Feeding problems
A baby needs 39 weeks in the womb to suck and swallow well and stay awake long enough to eat.
- Blood sugar problems
Babies delivered at 37 or 38 weeks have a higher rate of low blood sugar problems.
- Jaundice Problems
Babies delivered at 37 or 38 weeks may not be able to easily get rid of bilirubin, a by-product of red cell breakdown. It can build up in the baby’s blood, tissues and fluids. This is called hyperbilirubinemia. Because bilirubin has a pigment, or coloring, it causes a yellowing of the baby's skin and tissues which is called jaundice.
In addition to ensuring your baby’s health, there are other factors to consider for not choosing to have your labor induced for convenience or preference.
These factors include:
- Inducing labor for a non-medical reason may not work. When your labor does not progress, it may lead to a cesarean section.
- Early term cesarean section babies may have more medical problems.
- Remember, having a cesarean section is major surgery. Your c-section recovery will range from 4 – 6 weeks and will be more painful.
- Women who have c-sections are at greater risk for complications in future pregnancies. Complications include:
- Placenta previa is a complication during pregnancy when the placenta grows and covers all or part of the cervix. It may cause bleeding before or after delivery. It may start or stop on its own, or it can be severe requiring blood transfusions.
- Accreta occurs when the placenta attaches too deep in the uterine wall. Women who experience placenta acreta during delivery are at a great risk for hemorrhage.
Discuss this information with your obstetrician. Obstetricians use guidelines for labor induction from their professional organization the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. These guidelines help them to determine when it is right to induce labor.
Sometimes, there are circumstances that may require induction of labor prior to 39 completed weeks. If you do not meet these guidelines, it is best to wait for nature to take its course. Remember, when you have a choice about when your baby will be born, wait until your baby is 39 weeks or older.
VirtuaBaby content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you’ve read on VirtuaBaby. If you think you are experiencing a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately.