OB/GYNs and ACOGs new definition of "Full Term Pregnancy"

Today the ACOG has released NEW guidelines for what they consider to be a "term pregnancy". 
This is something that has been debated for years.

For many years, the ACOG(American College of Obstetrics and Gynocology) stated that term pregnancy was from 37-42 weeks gestation. Babies born before 37 weeks were considered premature and babies born after 42 weeks were considered post term.  Their new guidelines released on October 22, 2013 are redefining this standard. The new guidelines define term pregnancy as 39 weeks gestation.

We at Main Line Doulas are excited to see these new guidelines put into place and here's why: Many women are having nonmedically indicated, elective medical inductions(artificially starting the process of labor, either naturally or more commonly with prescription medications in the hospital) before their baby is naturally ready to come. Statistics show that their outcomes aren't always as good as their counterparts born at 39 weeks. According to a committee opinion article put out by the ACOG in April 2013 they say,

"Morbidity and mortality rates are greater among neonates and infants delivered during the early-term period [37-38 weeks] compared with those delivered between 39 weeks and 40 weeks of gestation. Nevertheless, the rate of nonmedically indicated early-term deliveries continues to increase in the United States. Implementation of a policy to decrease the rate of nonmedically indicated deliveries before 39 weeks of gestation has been found to both decrease the number of these deliveries and improve neonatal outcomes"

 This means that many babies being born with symptoms of prematurity could have been avoided.

 These guidelines will help stop babies from being born too early. A recent trend has been for the patient to request an induction that is not medically necessary. It is understandable that at the end of pregnancy, many women are extremely uncomfortable and ready to meet their new babies. By defining "term" pregnancy at 37 weeks, women and OB/GYNS are given the impression that babies born at 37 weeks are fully developed and ready to be born with the same outcomes as their peers born at 39-40 weeks, even if their body hasn't given them signs that it ready to start labor. This may give women the false impression that it is okay to induce labor before it naturally begins, as early as 37 weeks.

The March of Dimes has been rallying against inductions before 39 weeks for some time now. March of Dimes is an organization that has been protecting the health of babies and children, leading cutting edge research, offering community programs and providing education to communities to help save babies lives. They help moms to have full term pregnancies and are there with support for those who don't. Over the past year, they have started a campaign in television commercials, billboards and in-hospital posters highlighting the importance of delivering your baby at 39 weeks or later unless there is a medical problem. This campaign has lead to a reduction in premature babies. Hopefully these new guidelines will increase this reduction greatly.

So here are the new definitions:
  • Early Term:  Between 37 weeks 0 days and 38 weeks 6 days
  • Full Term:    Between 39 weeks 0 days and 40 weeks 6 days
  • Late Term:   Between 41 weeks 0 days and 41 weeks 6 days
  • Postterm:     Between 42 weeks 0 days and beyond

What will this new definition mean for moms and babies? Doctors will be taking these new guidelines into consideration before inducing labor. Both doctors and patients will now have a better understanding of the healthiest time for a baby to be born and will wait the appropriate time for non-medically indicated inductions.

 "Healthy babies are worth the wait!"

Non-medically indicated Early-Term deliveries: http://www.acog.org/Resources_And_Publications/Committee_Opinions/Committee_on_Obstetric_Practice/Nonmedically_Indicated_Early-Term_Deliveries