Full-Term Pregnancy

Pregnancy is an exciting as well as anxious time for any family. . The safety of the mother and wellbeing of the baby is everyone’s top priority. Most mothers wish to experience a healthy and a normal delivery, however, one of the important aspects to ensure is that the pregnancy should reach its full-term There are many facts and even myths around full-term pregnancy, and hence every pregnant woman and those aspiring to be pregnant should know about these so as to be prepared.

What is Full-Term Pregnancy?

A full -term pregnancy is one that completes 39 weeks. During medical emergencies, doctors may opt for an early delivery, but delivering when you are 39 weeks pregnant is the best scenario under normal circumstances. Till a few years ago, a pregnancy completing 37 weeks was considered to be full-term however, according to the latest directive of the ACOG or the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists basis their review researches in 2013, it was concluded that the full-term was best at 39 weeks.

What are the Different Pregnancy Terms?

Depending upon the duration the gestation period lasts for, pregnancy terms can be categorised as the following:

  • Early term

This is referred to as pregnancy age and is between 37 weeks 0 days and 38 weeks 6 days.

  • Full-term

A pregnancy that lasts between 39 weeks 0 days and 40 weeks 6 days considered to be a full -term pregnancy weeks.

  • Late term

The gestation period lasts between 41 weeks 0 days and 41 weeks 6 days.

  • Post term

A pregnancy that lasts 42 weeks 0 days and beyond is termed to be post term.

At 39 weeks, the baby will have attained normal growth making it a full -term pregnancy and is the optimal time for delivery.

Why are 39 Weeks Considered Full-Term Pregnancy?

It was a result of many research studies that prompted medical experts to regard 39 weeks as full-termfull-term, as opposed to the earlier proposed 37 weeks. It was found that babies born at full- term of 39 weeks were less susceptible to health issues, than those born at 37 weeks. Babies born at 39 weeks had a more developed brain, liver, and lungs as there was more time for organ development during gestation. . These babies also had a healthier weight and could also suck and swallow better at birth.

Baby’s Development at Full-Term Pregnancy

Starting from 37 weeks, a baby’s different body parts start maturing to achieve full growth. The digestive system starts forming meconium, which later transforms into baby’s first excreta after birth. .

Baby’s head starts moving towards the pelvis of the mother. In medical terms, this position is known , as ‘engaged’ . In certain cases, this position occurs only after labour. , Up until this time, the baby is covered in lanugo (first few hair produced by baby’s hair follicles), but at 39 weeks, or when pregnancy reaches a full term, it all goes away.Yet, there are some babies who may have patches of it even after birth. . The baby’s genitals also look swollen at birth and this happens due to the hormonal level changes in the mother’s body, but they soon attain its normal size.

Changes in Mother’s Body at 39 to 40 Weeks

When the pregnancy reaches its 39th week, the uterus muscles begin to tense and you may also experience false indications of labour. This condition is also known as Braxton Hicks. Whatever changes you feel, notify the doctor immediately.

The baby starts moving into the pelvic area leading to discomfort in the region and you may also experience sharp stab like sensation in the region when this occurs. This poking feeling is usually a result of the baby turning its head

Vaginal discharge in the form of white mucus sometimes with a tinge of blood also occurs at this stage.

Is it Ok if Baby Stays in Womb for as Long as Possible?

As it is said, anything in excess is bad, and the same concept applies for a baby who might stay in the mother’s womb past the full-term. The term may be extended by a week, but definitely not later. Babies should be born at full-term, anything before or after is certainly not healthy and in some cases, it can also endanger the life of the baby.

What if I Have Early Term Pregnancy?

Early term pregnancy is when the baby is born at 37 weeks, before reaching a full-term. Research studies have shown that babies born at an early term could be physiologically immature. It was also found that an early term baby is at a risk of many diseases, especially ones related to immunity, such as wheezing, asthma and more. Gastrointestinal disorders were also found to be more associated with early term babies than full-term infants.

Is it Risky to Have Late Term Pregnancy?

Having a late term pregnancy can be risky for both the infant and the mother. In babies , it could lead to breathing problems, sudden halt in growth, slowed heart rate and more. The amniotic fluid starts decreasing which means it could be even fatal for the baby. Stillbirth too can occur in some cases. Also, since the baby tends to be heavy during late term, there could be complications in the delivery process as well, and it could lead to a C-section.

What are Post Term Pregnancy Risks?

Post term pregnancy is the condition when the delivery has not taken place even after 42 weeks, that is,l three weeks after the medically accepted full-term at 39 weeks. A post term pregnancy can mean health complications for both mother and the baby.

The AAFP or the American Academy has listed numerous post term pregnancy risks associated to the baby which include:

  • The Baby Might Be Overweight: Post term babies tend to be over 8 pounds. Medically this condition is known as Fetal Macrosomia which can lead to obesity and diabetes in the future. . Overweight babies are also a health risk to the mother as the body size could cause uterine ruptures during delivery and also result in lacerations in the genital track. This will also mean heavy bleeding.
  • Less Availability of Oxygen to the Baby: By the time pregnancy reaches its full-term, the placenta that delivers oxygen and nutrition to the baby would have attained its maximum size and after that its ability to function normally reduces. This means the baby is at risk of not getting enough oxygen which can lead to severe birth disorders, cerebral palsy for one.
  • Meconium Aspiration Post term pregnancy can also lead to a condition called as Meconium Aspiration in which the baby breathes in amniotic fluid which causes oxygen deficiency and lead to lung disorders in the infant.

For mothers, there could be a range of health complications such as infection, postpartum haemorrhage, C-section and even perineum injuries.

Conclusion: Unless there are any medical complications, it is best to go for a full-term pregnancy, as it ensures good health for both the baby and mother.