39 Weeks is the New Full-Term for Babies

3 years ago

Getting uncomfortable towards the end of your pregnancy, feeling as if your internal organs may burst if that child doesn't stop squirming against your bladder? You may need to hold on for a few more weeks. While it's only a change in semantics, this shift in language may have far-reaching effects in how doctors schedule procedures such as cesarean sections at the end of a pregnancy. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists announced yesterday that they are creating four distinctions to mark the end of a pregnancy.

According to Time:

Previously women who were 37 to 41 weeks pregnant were all considered “full term” and women 42 weeks pregnant or over “postterm.” The new classification system calls for four groups: early term (37 to 38 weeks); full term (39 to 40 weeks); late term (41 weeks) and postterm (42 weeks and more).

The change comes about as a way to curb early induction, which leads to an increased risk of health issues for the baby. By shifting the way we think about the end of pregnancy, more women will hold out for a delivery in the 39th or 40th week rather than taking the risk of going early in the 37th or 38th week.

Image: Beth via Flickr

Not everyone will be thrilled with this news, especially the women who will need to carry a larger, heavier baby past the point where their body starts protesting. A quick perusal of blog posts nearing that 37 week mark tells a story of discomfort, such as this one on Parenthetical Me:

The other reason I slept terribly is that, at one day short of 37 weeks, I kept wondering if the Birth Center would take me if I went into labor right then. Would they round up by a day? This kid is nudging his way lower and lower into my pelvis (and right into my pelvic bone sometimes, like he was headed for the door but bumped into the door frame) and apparently trying to butterfly kick his way out. Combine that with some new and random shooting pains and I kept wondering if today would be showtime.

Though anyone who has delivered a preemie can tell you that the NICU is such a difficult time that anything you can do to grow a baby a little bit longer internally instead of externally should be done to curb the long-term risks of premature birth.

How do YOU feel about the new categories?

Melissa writes Stirrup Queens and Lost and Found. Her novel about blogging is Life from Scratch.

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