Although full-term babies have always been considered to be those born following pregnancies lasting 37-42 weeks, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists are revising that view in an move to improve the health of newborns. As a result, infants born between 39-41 weeks will now be considered as “full-term” babies, while those delivered from 37-39 weeks will be deemed “early-term.” In addition, babies delivered anywhere from 41-42 weeks of pregnancy will now be categorized as “late term,” with any delivered beyond that as “post-term.”
"We have increasingly recognized that newborn outcomes are not uniform between 37 and 42 weeks," stated Dr. Jeffrey Ecker, a high-risk obstetrician at Massachusetts General Hospital, as well as chair of the ACOG's Committee on Obstetric Practice. "Language is important in communicating that it's not just one period of time and to recognize that outcomes do differ.”
For instance, longer- term babies are found to have less breathing and hearing problems, in addition to learning disabilities. It has also been found that the “brain grows by approximately 1/3 between weeks 35 and 39 of pregnancy, and a layer of fat to help keep the body warm is added during the last weeks of pregnancy,.” according to The College.
Ecker also added that obstetricians now hope that the re-definitions will help stem the number of women who choose to have c-sections for non-medical reasons, although he noted that there are cases when it becomes medically necessary for either the baby’s or mother’s health to deliver early. Still, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists does not encourage inducing labor or c-sections early than 39-weeks gestation.
For a related article see http://www.examiner.com/article/induced-labor-linked-to-higher-autistic-...