Expectant parents are often overcome by feelings of anxiety and joy about the impending arrival of a baby. Expectant mothers in particular go the many highs and lows of pregnancy all with the expectation of holding a healthy baby at the end of their long journey.
While medical advances have greatly improved prenatal care and the birthing process, there are still a number of complications that can present that pose a risk to both mother and baby. In more recent years the high rates of cesarean births and the timing of those deliveries has raised concerns related to the overall health and wellbeing of babies who are delivered preterm.
In an effort to address the issue of scheduled preterm deliveries and the risks associated thereto, the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recently released new definitions of a “term” delivery. Clearly defining what constitutes as a preterm, term and post term delivery is significant as a growing number of obstetricians have been scheduling elective c-sections prior to 39 weeks of pregnancy.
Delivery of baby prior to 39 weeks, however, can pose numerous health risks as vital organs including the lungs and brain are still developing between 37 to 40 weeks of pregnancy. These births also tend to be more complex and may therefore increase the likelihood of a birth injury occuring.
Studies indicate that babies born prior to 39 weeks gestation have an increased risk of being born with health problems that may necessitate a baby be admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit. Additionally, these health problems may persist and impact an individual into adulthood.
Additionally, mothers who deliver a baby early or via c-section are susceptible to certain risks related to the surgical procedure. Additionally, these new moms must typically be in the hospital longer which increases the likelihood of developing an infection.
Source: The New York Times, “Rethinking ‘Term Pregnancy’,” Jane E. Brody, Nov. 11, 2013