By Karen Weintraub
Don’t be too eager to deliver that baby.
Doctors have long viewed babies born at 37 or 38 weeks as full term, but new research suggests that infants are better off staying in a healthy womb longer, if possible.
A study published this morning in Pediatrics found that babies born at 37 or 38 weeks scored slightly but significantly worse on third grade English and math tests than their counterparts born at 39-41 weeks. A typical pregnancy is 40 weeks.
The study has implications for doctors and parents who often choose to have early deliveries for the sake of convenience or at the slightest hint of any problem with the pregnancy.
The womb really is the best place for an infant, said Dr. Jonathan Davis, chief of Newborn Medicine at The Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center, who was not involved in the research.
“The message is: unless you really feel that there’s an irreversible or really dangerous thing going on, you should wait until at least 39 weeks to deliver,” he said.
Doctors often encourage earlier deliveries to avoid problems during birth, Davis said. “I really believe the reason they intervene so often is because they’re worried about getting sued.” But this and other recent research suggests doctors need to take a longer view. Continue reading