What constitutes a full term pregnancy?
A full-term pregnancy lasts 40 weeks. A pregnancy is considered full-term if the baby is born anytime between 37weeks-40weeks.
Why is it important to reach full term?
Each day that the baby spends inside the mother’s uterus is important for the baby. Unless there is an underlying medical condition or any other medical reason for an early delivery, doctors would recommend waiting until the labour starts naturally. Having a natural labour is best for the baby and the mother to have a smooth pregnancy. Induced labour has its own risks. Induced labour makes it more likely for the mother to have a C-section. Having said that, inducing labour is done in different ways. Certain medications are administered to artificially induce labour by starting contractions.
In some cases, women may be advised to deliver the baby early because of some health conditions like preeclampsia, infection, bleeding during pregnancy etc. If a baby is delivered before completion of 37 weeks, the baby will be born pre-term and this could cause health complications to the baby. Babies born at full term are completely developed and are less likely to develop conditions like jaundice, respiratory issues etc. The longer the baby is in the mother’s womb, lesser are the complications.
What complications might arise from pre-term birth?
Preterm births can be spontaneous or may be due to induced labour or C-section for medical reasons. Any baby born before 37 weeks of gestation is termed as a preterm baby. Most premature babies face short term and long term health complications. These babies are admitted to a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) as they are born at a time when they are not completely ready to leave the mother’s womb. They are at the risk of developing disabilities and are cared for in a NICU until they reach at least 35 weeks and are able to breathe on their own, and able to suck milk and swallow.
Premature babies are more susceptible to health complications like respiratory issues because of their immature respiratory system, neurodevelopmental issues, conditions of the heart, infections, hearing and eyesight problems, apnea, jaundice etc. Not all preemies suffer from these conditions but being premature increases their risk of developing these conditions. The earlier they are born, the greater number of risks they have. The birth weight of the baby is also a matter of concern. Premature babies will require a longer hospital stay than other babies. Some babies may have chronic lung diseases because lungs are the last organs to develop and may also require respiratory support even at home.
Specialist Obstetrician & Gynaecologist
Aster Clinic, Marina