Posts Tagged ‘full term pregnancy’

Why is 39 weeks so important?

Thursday, March 30th, 2017

midwife measuring pregnancy bellyIf your pregnancy is healthy, it is best to wait for labor to begin on its own. And if you do decide to induce labor, ask your provider if you can wait until at least 39 weeks.

Most people think that pregnancy lasts 9 months. But that isn’t exactly true. Pregnancy usually lasts about 40 weeks (280 days) from the first day of your last menstrual period (also called LMP) to your due date. A first trimester ultrasound can also help to determine your due date.

In the past, a pregnancy that lasted anywhere between 37 to 42 weeks was called a term pregnancy. Health care providers once thought this 5-week period was a safe time for most babies to be born.

But experts now know that scheduling your baby’s birth a little early for non-medical reasons can cause problems for both mom and baby. Getting to at least 39 weeks gives your baby the time he needs to grow.

Why is 39 weeks so important?

Here’s why your baby needs 39 weeks:

  • Important organs, like his brain, lungs and liver, get the time they need to develop. At 35 weeks, a baby’s brain weighs just two-thirds of what it does at 39 weeks.
  • There is more time to gain weight. Babies born at a healthy weight have an easier time staying warm than babies who are born too small.
  • Your baby will be able to feed better. Babies born early can sometimes have difficulties with sucking, swallowing, and staying awake long enough to eat.
  • Your baby is less likely to have vision and hearing problems after birth.

Why can scheduling an early birth cause problems?

There are some risks associated with inducing labor:

  • Your due date may not be exactly right. Even with an ultrasound, your due date can be off by as much as 2 weeks. If you schedule an induction and your due date is wrong, your baby may be born too early.
  • Pitocin, the medication used to induce labor, can make contractions very strong and lower your baby’s heart rate.
  • You and your baby have a higher risk of infection if labor doesn’t begin soon after your water breaks.
  • If the medications used to induce labor do not work, you may need to have a c-section.

What if there are problems with your pregnancy?

You may not have a choice about when to have your baby. Your provider may need to induce labor to help keep you and your baby safe. If your provider does decide to induce labor for the health and safety of you and your baby, you can learn more about how labor is induced on our website.

Remember: If your pregnancy is healthy, it is best to let labor begin on its own. If you and your baby are healthy, and you and your provider decide to induce labor, make sure you wait until at least 39 weeks. Healthy babies are worth the wait!

US gets a “C” on premature birth report card

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012


The U.S. preterm birth rate dropped for the fifth consecutive year in 2011 to 11.7 percent, the lowest in a decade, giving thousands more babies a healthy start in life and saving billions in health and social costs.

Four states – Vermont, Oregon, New Hampshire, and Maine earned an “A” on the March of Dimes 2012 Premature Birth Report Card as their preterm birth rates met the March of Dimes 9.6 percent goal. Although, the US preterm birth rate improved, it again earned a “C” on the Report Card.

The US preterm birth rate peaked in 2006 at 12.8, after rising steadily for more than two decades, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. It dropped to 11.7 in 2011, the lowest in a decade.

All this improvement means not just healthier babies, but also a potential savings of roughly $3 billion in health care and economic costs to society, said Dr. Howse, President of the March of Dimes. About 64,000 fewer babies were born preterm in 2010, when compared to 2006, the peak year.

Dr. Howse attributed the improved rates to an expansion of successful programs and interventions, including actions by state health officials in 48 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, who formally set goals to lower their preterm birth rates 8 percent by 2014 from their 2009 rate, based on a challenge issued in 2011 by the Association of State and Territorial Health Organizations. On the 2012 Report Card, 45 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico saw improvement in their preterm birth rates between 2009 and 2011, earning 16 of them better grades.

The largest declines in premature birth occurred among babies born at 34 to 36 weeks of pregnancy, but the improvement was across the board. Every racial and ethnic group benefitted, and there were fewer preterm babies born at all stages of pregnancy.

The March of Dimes “Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait” campaign urges health care providers and patients not to schedule a delivery until at least 39 completed weeks of pregnancy, unless there is a medical reason to do so. Many important organs, including the baby’s brain and lungs, are not completely developed until then. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services “Strong Start” initiative is partnering with the March of Dimes to raise awareness about the importance of a full term pregnancy through paid advertising support and collaboration with hospitals to improve perinatal care.

The March of Dimes Report Card compares each state’s preterm birth rate to the March of Dimes goal of lowering the rate to 9.6 percent of all live births by 2020. The Report Card information for the U.S. and states is available at this link.

The last weeks of pregnancy count

Thursday, July 5th, 2012

pregnancy-sunIt isn’t easy being pregnant during the dog days of summer! My sister-in-law and I are both pregnant during this heat wave. But while I’ve still got a ways to go with my pregnancy, she’s coming down the home stretch and is due in a couple of weeks. But as uncomfortable as she may be, she knows just how important these last weeks of pregnancy are for her baby.

A study published in the journal Pediatrics highlights this very issue. A healthy pregnancy lasts about 40 weeks. But  researchers found that children born even just a couple of weeks early (weeks 37 and 38) ended up having lower reading and math scores 8 years later than children who were born closer to 40 weeks.

Even though your provider may say you’re full term at week 37, those last few weeks leading up to week 40 are still very important. For example, your baby’s brain, lungs and liver are still developing. In fact, a baby’s brain at 35 weeks weighs just 2/3 of what his brain weighs at 39 to 40 weeks.

If your pregnancy is healthy, hang in there during those last weeks because it’s really best for your baby that you wait for labor to begin on its own. But if you’re thinking about scheduling your baby’s birth (like getting induced or requesting a c-section), wait until you’re at least 39 weeks. The last weeks of pregnancy really count!

Born Too Soon

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

Born Too Soon Global ReportEach year, some 15 million babies in the world, more than one in 10 births, are born too early, according to the just released report Born Too Soon: The Global Action Report on Preterm Birth.

More than one million of those babies die shortly after birth; countless others suffer some type of lifelong physical, neurological, or educational disability, often at great cost to families and society.

An estimated two-thirds to three-quarters of those preterm babies who die could survive without expensive care if a few simple, proven, and inexpensive treatments and preventions were available worldwide, according to more than 100 experts who contributed to the report.

Born Too Soon is the first-ever report to document the rate of preterm birth with comparable country-by-country data from around the world, and to identify priority policy and program actions that can substantially reduce the toll of this tragic problem.

Of the 11 countries with preterm birth rates over 15 percent, all but two are in Sub-Saharan Africa. But preterm birth is not just a problem for poor countries. High preterm birth rates are also seen in many high-income countries such as the United States. Preterm babies are born at a higher rate in the U.S. than in 127 other countries of the world, including many poorer nations. The U.S. preterm birth rate of 12.0 per 100 live births is tied with the rates of Somalia, Thailand, and Turkey.

Although we’ve recently seen a four year improvement in the U.S. preterm birth rate, nearly half a million babies still are born too soon each year.  We have to ensure that more moms have healthy, full-term pregnancies and full-term babies.  Everyone has a role to play – we must work together to make preterm birth a priority in the U.S. and on the global health agenda.

Born Too Soon is a joint project of the March of Dimes Foundation, the World Health Organization, the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health, and Saving Newborn Lives/Save the Children.  It also offers commitments to fight preterm birth by almost 50 United Nations agencies, universities, and nonprofit organizations.

To find out more and see an interactive map showing the preterm birth rates in all countries in the report, go to

Waiting for 39 weeks

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

In June the March of Dimes launched its “Healthy Babies Are Worth the Wait” campaign that stresses the importance of carrying your baby to full term.  Since the launch, we have received a few comments from some women who were unable to make it to 39 weeks and feel that our message is suggesting that somehow they failed. Not so at all!

The March of Dimes maintains that if a pregnancy is healthy, it’s best to stay pregnant for at least 39 weeks, or until labor begins on its own. The March of Dimes tells women that if you’re healthy and have a choice and you’re planning to schedule your baby’s birth, wait until at least 39 weeks because your baby’s brain, lungs and other organs will continue to develop. The fact of the matter, however, is that you might not have a choice about when to have your baby. If there are problems with your pregnancy or your baby’s health, you may need to have your baby earlier.  We firmly believe that the health of each mom and baby should always be of primary concern.

Today, Parents Magazine is celebrating its 85th year providing helpful information to parents. We salute their good work and thank them for their support in helping us spread the news about the importance of waiting for 39 weeks.  Full term pregnancies help all babies have a healthy start.