When is a baby full term? Previously, 37 weeks of gestation was considered full-term. Now, get new information on when babies are born their healthiest. Thank you to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for sponsoring this article. All content and opinions expressed are my own.
Like any mother who has given birth can attest, the last few weeks of pregnancy can be some of the most challenging. You can’t walk without crushing your bones. Sleepless nights are a norm. You’re tired, cranky and uncomfortable.
My first pregnancy felt like a breeze… until that last month. Where I had once dreaded labor, I now looked forward to it just to “get this over with.” My second pregnancy with the twins was even worse, with complications galore and an even bigger belly to contend with.
Yet my daily mantra, no matter how irritable I felt, remained: Every day inside my womb is one more day for the babies to grow. Even though those last few weeks and months had been uncomfortable, I also didn’t want to rush labor earlier than it needed to come.
When is a baby full term?
Back when I was pregnant, term meant passing the 37-week mark. So long as your baby had been born at least 37 weeks, then your baby was term.
Now, however, the NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) considers a pregnancy full term at 39 to 40 weeks. Those born at 37 to 38 are early term, while those born at 41 weeks are late term.
Watch this video below to learn why: http://bit.ly/1LXISBc
Babies born before 39 weeks are at higher risks for problems and complications. Some spend time in the neonatal intensive care unit because of problems with eating, breathing and controlling their body temperature. Others can even have more serious complications like blood infections and learning disabilities.
Know Your Terms
And so the NICHD has launched the initiative Know Your Terms (love the campaign name!) to bring more awareness about the importance of the last few weeks of pregnancy. Understanding these terms will help parents and health care providers discuss the best options for you and your baby.
This is understandable. More time in the womb means more time for the baby to grow and develop in its natural environment. One week—one day can make a difference. Your baby’s lungs, liver and brain go through a crucial growth period during weeks 37 to 39. Waiting until at least 39 weeks gives your baby the time to grow as much as possible.
My eldest was born at 39 weeks, with labor coming by itself. The birth of my twins, however, posed more complications. From the start, I was already scheduled to deliver no later than 38 weeks. But then I came down with a few complications, including cholestasis, at 31 weeks. This itch-related complication meant inducing at 37 weeks and stringent monitoring until then. Any longer than that, and the babies would be susceptible to serious problems.
It turns out my twins had different plans. Labor came at 35 weeks 6 days, less than the scheduled 37 weeks, and much less than the hoped-for 38.
Twins being a high-risk pregnancy as it is, doctors were on high-alert when delivering them. In my delivery room were a slew of doctors, including three to four NICU doctors for each baby. Once the babies were born, they were immediately checked for any problems to make sure they were okay.
My twins were fine, but they were still required to go through a series of tests during our stay at the hospital. This meant hourly blood tests to check sugar. Round-the-clock monitoring to check their ability to eat, pee, poop, breath and control their temperature. Thankfully, they passed all the tests, and we took them home with us with no need for NICU time.
Remember, babies are now considered full term at 39 to 40 weeks. Any earlier than that can cause problems. If you can, avoid early inductions or trying to rush your pregnancy. Those few weeks of sacrifice and discomfort may be all your baby needs to be born healthy and complication-free.
Need a comprehensive list of things to do during your pregnancy? My printable checklist includes tasks you might easily overlook or never think to do but that are crucial for a smooth pregnancy. Join my newsletter and download the printable checklist below—at no cost to you:
This is a sponsored article written by me on behalf of the National Institutes of Health.