Importance of Staying Pregnant until 39 weeks

As you enter the last few weeks of your pregnancy, many questions and concerns enter your mind. For some of you this is a time of patience, for others frustrations, and some anxiety. You may be experiencing excitement about the anticipation of your new baby, but nervous about all the newness that comes with the birth of a baby. Your baby is considered full term at 37 weeks gestation, even though most pregnancies last 41 weeks.  Those last few weeks of pregnancy are tough, everything is aching, you probably feel like this baby is about to fall out with every step, and you pee with every sneeze, giggle, cough and toot. To top it off, your exhausted! You are ready to have this baby!! The question however is whether or not your baby is ready to be born!  Staying pregnant till at least 39 weeks has tremendous benefits for you and your baby. Inductions, or the artificial starting of labor, may be done for medical reasons or social reasons. However, inducing labor for social reasons could mean an accidental premature birth. Some of this reasons include :”I’m just sick of being pregnant”…”my doctor is going on vacation and I really want him to deliver my baby”…”Grandma is in town and she needs to be here to help”… or my personal favorite, inducing the week before New Years Eve to get the tax break! When an induction is done for convenience you have to think who this is most convenient for : you, your baby or your doctor. Keep in mind, that in order for an induction to be successful your body has to be ready to give birth, and your baby has to be ready to be born. Now there are instances when inducing labor is medical indicated and for that it is 100% necessary. When mom’s health or the baby’s health are in jeopardy Inductions are a life saving tool and should be done for various health reasons. As with every major decision in life there are pros and cons to everything. It is important to think of all the options before inducing labor to give both you and your baby the healthiest start to life.

The March of Dimes recently issued a new educational program stating: “If your pregnancy is healthy, it’s best to stay pregnant for at least 39 weeks”.  There are many important things happening to your baby in the last few weeks of pregnancy. Baby's brain developmentAt 39 weeks your baby is given all the time needed to grow before they enter this world. A baby’s brain at 35 weeks gestation only weighs about two thirds of what it will weigh at 39-40 weeks. It is during this time that the sulci or the wrinkles of the brain are developing which helps coordinate the suck/swallow ration. Studies have shown that babies born too early are more likely to have feeding problems simply because they have a difficult time coordinating sucking, swallowing, and breathing compared to babies born at 40 weeks gestation. This picture illustrates the size and difference just 5 short weeks makes in the development of the growing babies’ brain.


  • Important organs such as the baby’s brain, lungs and liver ares till developing and growing at dramatic rates
  • Your baby’s eyes and ears are still developing. Babies born too early are more likely to have vision and hearing problems later in life
  • In the last 6 weeks of pregnancy your baby’s brain adds connections needed for balance, coordination, learning, and social functioning. It is during this time that the baby’s brain almost doubles in size
  • Babies born early have a higher chance of developing learning and behavior problems then those babies born at 39-40 weeks
  • Babies born early are more likely to develop breathing problems such as apnea. Apnea is when a baby temporarily stops breathing
  • Babies born early are more at risk for SIDS  (for more information on SIDS see the following link

Waiting to give birth onutil 39 weeks gives your baby all the essential time needed to grow. Talk to your doctor about things you can do to help you and your baby get to that crutial 39 week marker. Births that are scheduled before 39 weeks should only be done for medical reasons. For more information visit the march of dimes website at:


Copyright© 2011 Danielle Gauss,IBCLC – All Rights Reserved.

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  1. Pingback: The Placenta Blog » Blog Archive » What’s A Few Weeks?

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