Why Is 40 Weeks so Important?

Your Baby is very important to you. Remember every week counts! Keep your baby inside until its time!

Near the end of your pregnancy you may be uncomfortable or anxious to see your baby. But remember -- you want to be sure you deliver a full term baby if possible.

How long is full term?

Pregnancy lasts for about 280 days or 40 weeks.

A preterm or premature baby is delivered before 37 weeks of your pregnancy.

  • Extremely preterm infants are born 23 through 28 weeks.
  • Moderately preterm infants are born between 29 and 33 weeks.
  • Late preterm infants are born between 34 and 37 weeks.

Babies born before 39 weeks gestation have a greater chance of breathing problems, low blood sugar and other problems that may result in being admitted to a neonatal intensive care unit. So be patient!

What causes preterm births?

There are many factors that may lead to a preterm birth. Women who have had a previous preterm baby are at highest risk for another preterm baby. Women carrying multiple babies (such as twins or triplets) or have uterine or cervical abnormalities (such as fibroid tumors in their uterus) are also at high risk.

Other factors that put you at risk for a preterm birth include:

  • Diabetes;
  • High blood pressure;
  • Blood clotting disorders;
  • Problems with the placenta or bleeding;
  • Overweight or underweight;
  • Short time between pregnancies;
  • Late or no prenatal care;
  • Smoking, drinking alcohol or taking illegal drugs; and
  • Stress.

What are the risks of a preterm birth?

Having a baby before your due date puts the baby at higher risk for many health problems.

Babies born before 39 weeks gestation can have problems. Choosing to have your baby by induction, or C-section may seem convenient, but it puts both you and your baby at risk for problems.

The March of Dimes, a national organization whose mission is to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality,recommends that inductions be performed only for the health of the mother or the baby.

What are the problems with having a baby before my due date?

A baby's brain is the last major organ to develop during your pregnancy, so every day your baby stays inside your uterus is important for your baby! The part of the brain that the baby will use for thinking doubles in size during the last few weeks of your pregnancy. When you are 35 weeks pregnant, your baby's brain only weighs two-thirds of what it will weigh at 40 weeks.

Some of the health problems that preterm babies may have include:

  • Problems breathing and keeping warm;
  • Feeding problems because they may have more trouble sucking and swallowing;
  • Newborn jaundice, which causes their skin and the white part of their eyes to look yellow;
  • A longer hospital stay after they are born or be in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit;
  • Are more often readmitted to the hospital with problems; and
  • A smaller and less developed brain when they are born.

Even if the baby does well when born, he or she may have more long-term health problems such as:

  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD); and
  • As adults, they are more likely to get diabetes, high blood pressure or heart disease.

I want my baby to be healthy as possible. What can I do?

Sometimes no matter what you do, you may have a preterm baby, but there are things you can do to help prevent it.

  • If you smoke, stop. If you need help to stop smoking, ask your health care provider or call the New York State Smoker's Quitline at 1-866-NYQUITS(1-866-697-8487) or www.nysmokefree.com .
  • Do not ask to deliver your baby before your due date for any nonmedical reason.
  • If you think you have any kind of infection or just don't feel well, call your health care provider right away.

So don't rush your pregnancy. Keep your baby inside until its time!