Waiting to Deliver
If your pregnancy is healthy and you are considering scheduling your baby’s birth, it is best to stay pregnant until at least 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 or more.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
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. Watch these March of Dimes videos for more information:
- Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait: Reasons Why
- Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait: Questions for Health Care Provider