A new study published in the BMJ.com journal sheds light on a problem with the 37-week theory. According to the study, infants born at 37 weeks to 38 weeks are at increased risk of health problems compared to infants born closer to 40 weeks.
The best time for your baby's birth is 39 weeks or later.
A full-term pregnancy is one that lasts longer than 37 weeks. Most doctors aim to keep the pregnancy viable for at least that length of time, but the closer the pregnancy comes to 40 weeks the better.
Researchers at Universities in Liverpool, Leicester, Oxford and Warwick partnering with the National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit studied more than 18,000 infants. The infants were born in 2000 and 2001. The infants were followed for up to five years with growth measurements taken at three critical points along the way – 9 months, 3 years and 5 years. Parents were questioned about their child’s health history and they were asked to report any hospitalizations, long-term health problems and the use of prescription medications, among other health considerations.
At the conclusion of the study, researchers found that infants born between 37 and 38 weeks gestation were at a higher risk of having health problems than infants born later in gestation. All infants born between 32 weeks and 38 weeks were at increased risk of health problems compared to full-term infants. Children born between 33 weeks and 36 weeks were also at increased risk of asthma and wheezing.
Interestingly the researchers also found a correlation between women working as managers, women with lesser educational backgrounds and single women were more likely to give birth to infants at 37 weeks gestation or earlier. Women who birthed early were less likely to breastfeed and more likely to smoke. This could impact the health of infants in the study as well.
Source: Elaine M Boyle et al.BMJ. 1 March, 2012.