A full-term pregnancy is 40 weeks long. And as longas mother and baby are healthy, the last weeks are just asimportant as those at the beginning and middle.
“The final phase of prenatal development is a period ofrapid growth—in particular, brain maturation and growth,”says Sheila McDonald, a researcher at the Child DevelopmentCentre at the Alberta Children’s Hospital. As well, the lungsand gastrointestinal system mature at this time.
Many late preterm babies (born at 34 to 36 weeks) arehealthy at birth. Some babies, however, have troublebreathing and their development and ability to learn canbe poorer than babies born at 39 weeks and beyond. Aswell, some late preterm babies find it difficult to suck,swallow or stay awake long enough to feed properly, makingbreastfeeding harder.
A study by McDonald and five other researchers, AComparison between Late Preterm and Term Infants onBreastfeeding and Maternal Health, also confirmed whatseveral previous studies had suggested: a late preterm birthcan increase a mother’s risk of depression, anxiety andstress.
In the past 25 years, preterm births have increased by 36per cent. The changes are linked to several reasons, suchas infertility treatments and increases in mothers’ ages,multiple births, obesity and decisions to induce labour ordeliver by Caesarean section before 39 weeks.
Ideally, pregnancy is at least 39 weeks, giving a baby timeto gain weight and physically develop.
Full-termpregnancy goodfor moms andchildrenBabies born even three and four weeks early mayface health concerns
A healthy pregnancy relies on making healthy choicesthroughout its duration.
“Women who choose not to smoke or use alcohol inpregnancy, who gain the recommended amount of weight,as well as women who establish good support networks andhealthy relationships are more likely to have healthy babies,”says Suzanne Tough, a study co-author, professor in thedepartments of Pediatrics and Community Health Sciencesat the University of Calgary, and Health Scholar for AlbertaInnovates—Health Solutions.
— Colleen Seto
For more information, see Quick Tips: Healthy PregnancyHabits at myhealth.alberta.ca or call Health Link Alberta at1-866-408-5465 (LINK) for the prenatal support program orservice nearest you
Ideally, pregnancy is at least 39 weeks, giving a baby time to gain
weight and physically develop.