Obstetricians Re-Define ‘Term’ Pregnancy, Making it More Precise

Pregnant womanOn average, a pregnancy lasts about 40 weeks, counting from the last day of a woman’s last menstrual period. Historically, a ‘term’ pregnancy has been defined as one that occurs between 37 weeks and 42 weeks. Anything prior to that is considered premature. But all of that is changing, thanks to a more precise definition of what a ‘term’ pregnancy is, and it’s all thanks to the advancement of medicine.

Doctors’ groups and the March of Dimes have stressed over the years that elective inductions and Cesareans should not take place any time prior to the 39th week of pregnancy. The reasoning behind this? Through several studies, research has found that babies born in their 37th week are more likely to suffer from breathing problems than those born just two weeks later.

“Weeks matter,” Dr. Jeffery Ecker of Massachusetts General Hospital, who chaired the American College of Obstetricians (ACOG) that came up with the more precise definition of term pregnancy, told Associated Press. “Let’s not call it all the same.”

Per ACOGs new definitions, released on Tuesday:

  • Babies born between 37 weeks and 38 weeks, 6 days are premature.
  • Babies born between 39 weeks and 40 weeks, 6 days are full term.
  • Babies born during the 41st week are late term.
  • Babies born after the 42nd week are post term.

According to Ecker, doctors will now be able to better communicate the message and definition of a full term pregnancy to their patients. Hopefully, this will also result in better health of newborns, since doctors will unlikely be performing any form of induction or C-section prior to the 39th of pregnancy, unless it is medically necessary.

Associated Press reported that the March of Dimes welcomes the change, saying it “eliminates confusion about how long an uncomplicated, healthy pregnancy should last.”

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About the author


Kate Givans is a wife and a mother of five—four sons (one with autism) and a daughter. She’s an advocate for breastfeeding, women’s rights, against domestic violence, and equality for all. When not writing—be it creating her next romance novel or here on Growing Your Baby—Kate can be found discussing humanitarian issues, animal rights, eco-awareness, food, parenting, and her favorite books and shows on Twitter or Facebook. Laundry is the bane of her existence, but armed with a cup of coffee, she sometimes she gets it done.

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