Even at 37 Weeks, Babies are Developing
By the time you reach the home stretch of your pregnancy, you're ready to be done with it. You're tired, you're swollen, your back aches, and, most of all, you want to see your baby. In those last few weeks, you might even be talking to your doctor about scheduling a C-section or an early induction, particularly if you're having problems with your pregnancy.
Until recently, babies born at 37 weeks were considered to be safely at full term. "People thought those last few weeks didn't matter," says John Thorp, M.D., professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine. "If the baby would do well and Mom was tired of being pregnant, why not end it early?" Even at 34 weeks, infants were thought to be at low risk, largely because their lungs are usually fully developed by then.
However, new studies indicate that these deliveries done ahead of schedule are harmless after all. Even if an early baby is fully able to breathe on his own, he's still at higher risk for a wide range of health and developmental problems, some of them long-lasting. Most surprising is the finding that every day of development matter, right up to the end. In fact, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) now advises doctors to avoid scheduling deliveries before 39 weeks unless the mother or child is in danger.