I’m sure you’ve noticed that there is a growing trend of planned early births between the weeks of 36-38, whether by planned induction or planned caesarean without a medical basis. But did you know the last few weeks of pregnancy are so important for your baby’s health and development?
In the last 4-5 weeks of your pregnancy your babies’ brain will increase in weight by about 50%. But it’s not only just getting bigger, it’s also still developing right up until 40 weeks of pregnancy.
Up until 2010, 37-39 weeks was considered full term, which was then re-evaluated in 2013 due to evidence of poorer short term and long-term outcomes for babies born before 39 weeks.
Research shows that in 2015, 42-60% of planned caesareans were performed at less that 39 weeks without medical justification. And 10-22% were performed at less than 37 weeks. The following reasons for a planned early caesarean before 39 weeks without medical indication were:
- A previous caesarean
- Previous perineal trauma
- Previous shoulder dystocia
- Maternal choice
Privately funded patients were general higher than that of public for planned early caesareans also.
A baby born at 37 weeks has more than double the risk of being transferred to intensive care than that of a baby born at 39 weeks. When babies are born closer to their due date, they are also less likely to require special care for breathing or feeding difficulties. This is why when planning for birth by induction or caesarean you should be waiting until at least 39 weeks to give your baby better outcomes both in short term and long term unless there is medical justification.
So even delaying birth by a few days can be super beneficial for baby.
In 2014, John Newnham, Professor in Obstetrics and Gynaecology at The University of Western Australia, and his team developed “The Whole Nine Months” which is a program aiming to reduce the rate of early births across the population.
Professor Newnham says that the implementation of this program has cut the rate of pre-term births by 8% in WA public hospitals, and a 34% reduction of early term births without medical indication in the ACT in just one year.
As a result of this success, the program received federal funding and was rolled out across Australia in 2018. The Australian Preterm Birth Prevention Alliance was then established, which is a national partnership of clinical leaders, researchers, health departments and communities all working together to help lower the rate of early birth safely.
Newnham also says it’s important for parents to have accurate information about the risks and benefits of early planned births and encourages parents to ask questions before jumping in and booking an early caesarean or induction to ensure their birth plans are what’s best for both mum and baby.
In the last few weeks of pregnancy your baby is going through such a crucial development phase, so while you may be eager to meet your baby, waiting until at 39 weeks is optimal for babies’ growth and development as well as their development long into childhood!
My name is Tanielle, and I am a qualified birth and postpartum doula trained through the Doula Training Academy. I am based in Melbourne’s West and can be contacted on the details below:
Phone: 0468 835 316
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