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Full Term Pregnancy Explained

Nearing the End of the Third Trimester
As you approach the end of your third trimester, you’re most likely counting down the days until your due date. Try to remember that this is only an estimate and that only about 5% of babies are born exactly on time in the first place.
Depending on how far along you are in your pregnancy, you may be wondering what constitutes a full-term pregnancy and what will happen if your baby is born sooner or later than you had anticipated. It can assist you in feeling more prepared to understand what is meant by preterm, early-term, full-term, late-term, and post-term pregnancy, as well as how these outcomes can affect you and your baby during your pregnancy. Continue reading to find out!


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Defining Pregnancy in Weeks

Pregnancy lasts approximately 40 weeks (280 days) from the first day of your last menstrual period (also known as LMP) until the day of your scheduled delivery. Your due date is the date on which your provider anticipates that you will give birth to your child.
Prior to the introduction of the term “term pregnancy,” a pregnancy lasting anywhere between 37 and 42 weeks was considered to be a term pregnancy. Historically, health care providers believed that this 5-week period was a safe time for the majority of babies to be born.
However, now, according to the guidelines of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (also known as ACOG) and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (also known as SMFM), full-term pregnancy is defined as one that lasts between 39 weeks and 6 days. This means that your pregnancy will last between one week before your due date and one week after your expected due date.
The guidelines updated the definitions for term pregnancies to reflect the fact that every week of pregnancy matters for the health of your child. Several significant events occur in the life of your baby during the final few weeks of pregnancy.
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Know your terms

-Pre-term: Before 37 weeks
-Early-term: 37 weeks through 38 weeks and 6 days
-Full-term: 39 weeks through 40 weeks and 6 days
-Late-term: 41 weeks through 41 weeks and 6 days
-Post-term: 42 weeks and beyond


You and your baby at 37 weeks!

Your due date is approaching, and you only have a few weeks left to prepare. In fact, you’re so close to having your baby that you’d be delighted to get the show on the road and have it now. What’s the harm in trying? After all, your doctor told you that you’re close enough to your due date at 37 weeks that you shouldn’t worry about it.
As it turns out, those final few weeks of pregnancy are just as important as any other stage of the pregnancy, and being “close enough” isn’t always sufficient justification. Experts now believe that you should do everything in your power to deliver your child on or before your due date, unless there is a medical reason for you to deliver your child earlier.
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That’s because research suggests that giving birth to a baby before 39 weeks increases their risk of developing a variety of health and developmental problems later on. Because of the overwhelming evidence, a growing number of hospitals are implementing programs to help prevent elective deliveries before 39 weeks of pregnancy are completed.
For example, one study discovered that babies born by C-section before 39 weeks have more breathing difficulties than babies born by C-section after 39 weeks, according to the findings. Furthermore, babies born at 37 weeks are four times more likely than babies born at 39 weeks or later to end up in the neonatal intensive care unit or have serious respiratory problems; babies born at 38 weeks are twice as likely as babies born at 37 weeks to have complications.


Why do those last weeks of pregnancy matter?

Due to swelling ankles and back pain, you may be tempted to ask your doctor for an early induction. Still, the final month of pregnancy is critical to your baby’s healthy development:
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Are there risks if your baby is overdue?

Despite the fact that your due date has passed, you are still pregnant. What exactly is going on? Even though your due date appears to have magical properties, it is simply a calculated estimate of when your baby will be 40 weeks gestational. You may be more likely to have a post-term pregnancy if you have any of the following characteristics:

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In some cases, an overdue pregnancy may be caused by problems with the placenta or the baby. This is extremely rare. Whatever the reason, you’re probably sick of being pregnant, not to mention anxious about the future of your child. Rest assured that an overdue pregnancy will not last indefinitely. Labor could begin at any point in the future.
According to research, when your pregnancy lasts between 41 weeks and 41 weeks and 6 days (late-term pregnancy), as well as 42 weeks or more prolonged (post-term pregnancy), your baby may be at increased risk for a variety of health problems, including:
  • Significantly larger than average at birth (fetal macrosomia), which may increase the risk of operative vaginal delivery, a C-section, or having a shoulder stuck behind your pelvic bone during birth (shoulder dystocia)
  • Post-maturity syndrome is characterized by a decrease in fat beneath the skin, a lack of a greasy coating (vernix caseosa), a reduction in soft, downy hair (lanugo), and staining of the amniotic fluid, skin, and umbilical cord by your baby’s first bowel movement (meconium)
  • It is possible to have low amniotic fluid (oligohydramnios), which can affect your baby’s heart rate and cause the umbilical cord to be compressed during contractions.
There are risks associated with late-term and post-term pregnancies, including the possibility of delivery complications:
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Keeping an eye on your pregnancy

After you have passed your due date, your prenatal care will continue. Your baby’s size, heart rate, and position will be checked, and your health care provider will inquire about your baby’s movements during visits.
A nonstress test and an amniotic fluid volume assessment, or a combination of a nonstress test and a fetal ultrasound (biophysical profile), may be performed if you’re more than a week past your due date. In some cases, labor induction may be recommended to speed up the healing process. To achieve a vaginal birth, labor induction is the stimulation of uterine contractions during pregnancy before labor begins on its own. This is done to ensure a healthy pregnancy.


Giving baby a nudge

Suppose you and your healthcare provider decide on labor induction. In that case, you may be prescribed medication to aid in the ripening of your cervix. Your health care provider may choose to dilate your cervix by inserting a small tube (catheter) into it and inflating an inflatable balloon at the other end of it. It is beneficial to fill the balloon with saline and place it against the inside of the cervix in order to help ripen the cervix.
Your healthcare provider may break your water if the amniotic sac is still intact by creating an opening with a thin plastic hook. You may also be given medication to help kick-start your contractions if this is deemed necessary. Pitocin, a synthetic version of oxytocin — a hormone that causes the uterus to contract — is famous for inducing labor.


Opting for elective delivery

An elective cesarean delivery is a scheduled surgery that is performed for reasons other than medical necessity, and your doctor may approve this option. Some women prefer to have their babies delivered surgically because it allows them to have greater control over when their children are born. It can also help to alleviate some of the anxiety associated with waiting for labor to begin.
Cesarean delivery is a risky procedure. Just because you have the option of having one does not mean you should choose it. There are advantages to having a scheduled cesarean delivery, but there are also disadvantages.
In some cases, such as if your baby is breech and does not change position as your due date approaches, your doctor may decide to perform a caesarian section.
It is also possible to schedule a cesarean delivery for reasons other than medical necessity, but doctors do not recommend doing so. Cesarean delivery is considered major surgery. There is a higher risk of complications, including:

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You’ve reached the final stretch! No matter whether your doctor recommends a “wait and see” approach or schedules an induction, keep in touch with them and make sure you understand what to do if you think you’re in labor.
In the meantime, try to enjoy the remainder of your pregnancy to the fullest.

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