Reaching the 37th week of pregnancy with both of my boys felt like a big milestone.
After heaving my bloated, pregnant self around for way too long, my baby boy was finally “full-term,” or fully developed. It wouldn’t matter if he was delivered now, I mistakenly thought, or on my due date in a few weeks.
Turns out I was wrong.
But it’s not my fault, or the fault of many moms, who think their little bundles of joy are ready to go at 37 weeks, when they really aren’t. Up until a few years ago, even medical experts thought 37 weeks was the ideal goal.
Pushing the Goal Line Back
That all changed several years ago, when medical experts changed the rules for pregnant moms. No longer was the goal of many pregnant moms to reach the 37th week of pregnancy. The goal line was pushed back to 39 weeks, because new research showed that babies still had a lot of growing to do at weeks 37 and 38. The baby’s brain and lungs, for example, were still developing.
It’s important to note that some babies need to be delivered early. This may be because the mother or baby is at risk for complications. But if there are no complications, inducing labor or scheduling a C-section before 39 weeks should be avoided, because the baby is still growing, according to Choosing Wisely, an initiative of the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) Foundation.
Babies born at 37 or 38 weeks run a greater risk of having feeding problems or needing respiratory support, compared to babies born full-term (between 39 to 41 weeks.)
Did you know?
The Choosing Wisely program was started to reduce waste in the health care system and avoid risks associated with unnecessary treatments. The American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) Foundation publishes and shares hundreds of care recommendations from more than 70 medical specialty societies. A goal of the program is to promote conversations between physicians and patients about the necessity of certain tests and procedures. This includes the risks associated with scheduling a C-section before 39 weeks gestation. Another important goal of Choosing Wisley is to give patients more of a say in some of the decisions.