Although pregnancies are considered to be full term after 37 weeks, there are advantages to waiting until 39 weeks to deliver. Pregnancies are dated from the mom’s last menstrual period, not from the date of conception. Full term pregnancy is a range rather than a date, with 37-41 weeks considered to be full term.
There has been a lot of press lately about the ideal time to electively deliver a baby. Recent recommendations from the March of Dimes and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology take into account the fact that babies are healthier if they are born after 39 weeks. Babies born from 35-38 weeks, considered near- term, have more problems with feeding, maintaining their temperature and other factors than babies born after 39 weeks. They are also more likely to spend time in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and not go home from the hospital with their mothers.
Banner Health Care, based in Arizona and including Banner Desert Medical Center in Mesa Arizona, has been leading the way in the movement to only electively deliver babies after 39 weeks. This new policy only applies to elective (non medical) deliveries- not to medically indicated ones. For example, if a mother has high blood pressure, or if the fluid around the baby is low, or if her water breaks and her labor needs to be induced or if she’s in labor, she will be delivered even if she is not 39 weeks along. On the other hand, if a mom is planning a repeat cesarean delivery, or wants to deliver on a specific day, or is simply tired of being pregnant, that will have to wait until she is 39 weeks. This policy ensures that that babies are born at the safest time for them and their mothers.
Tamar Gottfried is a Board Certified Obstetrician/ gynecologist practicing general Ob/gyn in Mesa Arizona and affiliated with Banner Desert and Banner Gateway Medical Centers. She can be contacted at 480-545-0059 . This is a general interest article only and is not intended to be medical advice. See a medical professional before making medical decisions