Doctors redefine 'full term' pregnancy
By USA Today
Published: Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013, 5:42 p.m.
Generations of mothers-to-be have heard that babies born any time between 37 and 42 weeks of pregnancy were “at term” — neither too early nor too late. But that is now officially outdated wisdom, two leading medical groups said.
A pregnancy is “full term” only in the 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. The groups say babies born within those two weeks do best. Babies born two weeks before or one week after that window, at “early term” or “late term,” face a few more risks, they said.
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, said Jeffrey Ecker, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston.
The old terminology “was based on the general observation that babies born after 37 weeks tended to do quite well,” Ecker said.
That's still true, but doctors know now that babies born at 39 and 40 weeks do better; risks rise again after 41 weeks.
“Language and labels matter,” he added.
Here's how mothers-to-be mothers should now expect doctors to describe the last possible weeks of pregnancy (counted from the first day of a woman's last menstrual period, but sometimes adjusted after an ultrasound):
• Early term: Between 37 weeks, zero days and 38 weeks, six days.
• Full term: Between 39 weeks and 40 weeks, six days.
• Late term: Between 41 weeks and 41 weeks, six days.
• Postterm: 42 weeks or more.
The definitions were developed last year and published this year in the journal JAMA.
Still, the official endorsement by OB-GYN doctors is “incredibly important,” said Edward McCabe, medical director of the March of Dimes. “In the past, when a woman made it past the 37-week goal line, she was home. This moves the goal line.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Former National Security Agency contractor Snowden’s leaks to cost billions, take years to fix
- Lawmakers vote to bar ‘upskirt’ photos in Massachusetts
- El Nino could bring relief to U.S.
- Crisis stymies Obama getaway
- ‘Senior officers should not do that,’ Army leader says in pleading guilty to misconduct charges
- ‘Drug czar’ cleared to lead Border Patrol
- Gillibrand sex assault bill halted by fellow Democrat
- Shuster plans oversight for DUI program
- Health marketplace targets not signing up, survey shows
- Holocaust survivor sues Germany in looted art claim
- Sex-crimes prosecutor accused in groping