Healthcare Professionals

Every week counts.
Why is this important?

Over the past two decades doctors considered 37 to 41 weeks of gestation to be a term pregnancy, and there was an assumption that birth outcomes at 37 weeks were similar to those at 38, 39 or 40 weeks.

This website provides an overview of the benefits for babies who are born closer to their due date at 40 weeks – as long as the pregnancy is healthy and progressing without any issues. We hope you will factor this into the conversations you have with expectant mums.

 

Why does every week count?

Birth before 40 weeks may be necessary. However, for each additional week of gestation achieved there are significant reductions in risk – delaying the birth by even a few days may be beneficial, providing it is safe to do so.

 

Short term benefits:

  • • With every week that babies are delivered before 39 to 40 weeks, there is an increased risk of neonatal morbidity and mortality. Even infants born at 37 to 38 weeks of gestation are at higher risk than infants born at 39 weeks – the risk decreases week by week up to 39 weeks.
  • • Birth prior to 39 weeks increases the likelihood of readmission to hospital in the first year of the baby’s life.
  • • The risk of a baby requiring admission to a NICU/SCN becomes less the closer the birth is to 39 to 40 weeks – thus also reducing the risk of separation of the baby from its mother at this crucial time for bonding and establishing feeding.
Delaying the birth by even a few days may be beneficial, providing it is safe to do so.

 

Longer term implications of early birth:

  • • Early (at less than 39 weeks) planned birth is associated with an elevated risk of poor child development at school age – as concluded in a large New South Wales population-based study investigating the association of gestational age with early child development.
  • • Moderate and late preterm (MLPT) birth is associated with smaller brain size, less developed myelination of the posterior limb of the internal capsule, and more immature gyral folding than those associated with full-term birth. These brain changes may form the basis of some of the long-term neurodevelopmental deficits observed in MLPT children.

 

 

Awareness of the association between early planned birth and child development at school age, together with the fact that the timing of planned birth is modifiable, has led us to support strategies, such as this website, to provide information that may assist in ensuring optimal child health and development.

To view all mentioned research studies, please click here