I’ve been reading recently about how and why a baby is considered term at 37 weeks, even though they may still lack in their lung and brain development. The hospital I work for has a 39 week rule: unless medically necessary, no elective Cesarean sections or inductions will be authorized by any doctor. WebMD states:
The overall risk of newborn death remains small, but it doubles for infants born before 37 weeks, compared to infants born at 40 weeks. In 2006, infant mortality was 1.9 deaths for every 1,000 live birth when babies were born at 40 weeks. This rate increased to 3.9 per 1,000 live births when a baby was born at 37 weeks, the study showed.
Most mothers are willing to wait until their baby and body are ready to naturally bring labor on, as the universe has designed it. Baring any medical complications, the most common being preeclampsia for early induction, every mama should just put up her feet and be patient. It is not uncommon for mamas to ask to be induced as soon as possible. This ruffles my feathers a bit. WHY? If your reasoning has nothing to do with your health and everything to do with “I just can’t wait” or “I’m sooooo done being pregnant!” then I will firmly tell you to just wait and be patient.
Pregnancy is considered to be “term” at 37 weeks for a few reasons. If labor does begin spontaneously or the waters break, then medical staff will not stop that baby from coming. Also, the lungs have developed to a point where most babies born at 37 weeks would do well, however that is not to say it is best for them. I was listening to a radio show a few days ago and the guest was a medical doctor who explained that some of the most crucial brain development occurs during those last 3-5 weeks (37-42 weeks). Studies have been done on children, comparing whose who were born before 39 weeks and those born after. Their tests scores are lower and their overall ability to learn has a delay.
Obviously this is not true for all children born before or after 39 weeks. But it made me think, again, why would anyone want to elect to deliver earlier than their body is ready? I don’t consider myself a patient person and when I rounded the corner of 40 weeks with no labor signs in sight, I was miserable. And yet, I knew that my body would figure it out and I just had to wait. I wanted nothing more than a healthy delivery and newborn son. I know everyone wants that, but I’m sure that when some women reach “term” at 37 weeks that they think their baby has cooked enough and is ready to come. One of my goals as a midwife is to help educated women in all their choices. I did not feel like I knew what all my options were when I was pregnant or that term just meant labor would not be stopped, but was not ideal for a new baby.