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Information for Moms To Be

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Let baby set the delivery date.

  • You can avoid or reduce many health risks for mother and baby by waiting until 39 weeks of pregnancy to deliver.
  • Research shows that the fetus goes through a significant amount of lung, liver, and brain development between 37 and 39 weeks of pregnancy.
  • Your due date could be off by up to 2 weeks, which means if you have your baby before 39 weeks you could be having it early.

Why should I wait until at least 39 weeks of pregnancy to deliver?

  • Babies born at or after 39 weeks of pregnancy face fewer health problems.
  • Babies’ brains, lungs, and liver continue important development until 39 weeks.

What are the risks to my baby and to me if I deliver without a medical reason before 39 weeks of pregnancy?

Risks to the baby:

  • Might need to stay in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU)
  • Birth complications, including breathing problems and cerebral palsy
  • Developmental disabilities, such as attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • A 50% greater chance of death within the first year of life compared to babies born between 39 and 41 weeks1

Risks to the mother:

  • Postpartum depression2
  • Stronger and more frequent contractions3
  • Need for a cesarean delivery and its outcomes, including risk of infection, longer recovery time, and the possible need for cesarean delivery in future pregnancies4

What questions should I ask my health care provider?

  • Are there any medical reasons that I might need to induce labor before 39 weeks?
  • What are the potential complications for my baby of elective induction?
  • What are the potential complications for my own health?
  • How do you tell when my body is ready for labor?

  1. http://www.leapfroggroup.org/media/file/ACOGRethinkingDefinitionofTermPregnancy.pdf External Web Site Policy (PDF - 85 KB)
  2. National Children and Maternal Health Education Program (NCMHEP). (no date). National Child and Maternal Health Education Program (NCMHEP) continuing medical education (CME) course: Raising awareness: Late preterm birth and non-medically indicated inductions prior to 39 weeks. Accessed April 19, 2013, from http://www.nichd.nih.gov/ncmhep/focus/toolkit/Documents/CME_One_Pager.pdf (PDF - 24 KB).
  3. http://www.marchofdimes.com/pregnancy/getready_atleast39weeks.html External Web Site Policy
  4. NCMHEP CME, op. cit.
Last Updated Date: 05/03/2013
Last Reviewed Date: 05/03/2013