According to USA Today on Wednesday, a pregnancy is now defined as "full term" only in the narrower two-week window that starts at 39 weeks, under new definitions published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology and endorsed by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine.
However, normal pregnancies can vary up to five weeks, and for a first time mother, going into the second week of pregnancy is not only common, but is normal and healthy.
The biggest reason the terminology needs to change is to discourage doctors and patients from scheduling medically unnecessary deliveries — by induction or C-section — before 39 weeks, says Jeffrey Ecker, a specialist in maternal-fetal medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston. He chairs the college's committee on obstetric practice.
The new definitions, released Tuesday in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology are:
- Early Term, between 37 weeks and 38 weeks 6 days.
- Full Term, between 39 weeks and 40 weeks 6 days.
- Late Term, the 41st week.
- Post Term, after 42 weeks.
In recent years, doctors' groups and the March of Dimes have stressed that elective deliveries — inductions and C-sections scheduled without a medical reason — shouldn't happen before the 39th week of pregnancy. Research shows that babies born at 37 weeks have more of a risk of complications, such as difficulty breathing, than those born just two weeks later.
Emily Sutherlin is also the Pregnancy Examiner.
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