Why Should I Wait Until Week 39 to Deliver?

For years, millions of moms have been scheduling inductions at week 37 or 38. However, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recently came out with a new definition of what’s considered a full-term pregnancy, which is now 39 to 40 weeks.

What does this mean for you? Michael Marcotte MD, of Tri-State Maternal-Fetal Medicine Associates, says that waiting until week 39 or 40 to deliver could save your baby’s life.

Delivering Early: What’s the Issue?

“What we know from evidence is that babies born at 37 or 38 weeks have a higher rate of several complications,” Dr. Marcotte explains. When you deliver early, your baby is more at-risk for:

Your baby is also more likely to go into the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Similarly, “At 37 weeks, if you do a repeat C-section, the baby has an 8 percent chance of going to the NICU, whereas if you deliver at 39 weeks, the rate is down to 3 or 4 percent,” Dr. Marcotte points out.

On the other hand, if your baby does need to stay in the hospital longer, breastfeeding may be challenging, because they’ve been apart from you for a longer period of time.

What is TriHealth Doing to Prevent Pre-Term Births?

Dr. Marcotte says the biggest initiative is educating obstetricians and midwives throughout the state on the importance of waiting until a pregnancy is full-term to deliver.

He's been working on this initiative for nearly five years. “We’re in the final stages of spreading this knowledge and practice to all maternity hospitals in Ohio – and there’s about 120 of them,” he explains. “We’re trying to change a culture, where it was considered okay to just deliver somebody at 37 or 38 weeks, even though there was no reason – either [the mom] just wanted to be delivered or the doctor wanted them to be delivered. There was no medical reason.”

Tags: Womens Health

Last Updated: April 10, 2014