Thursday, April 14, 2011

The New Term You Need to Know: Early Term

When my son was born in 2008 at 38 weeks, he was considered a full term baby. But when the National Center for Health Statistics released its final birth data for the same year, they coined the new term "early term".

Early term describes any newborn born at 37-38 weeks gestation, in between the preterm and full term stages. Why the need for this new terminology? Studies show that babies born during this period are more at risk for certain disorders, including autism and dyslexia. Furthermore, early term infants have a higher incidence of respiratory complications that can increase the risk for childhood asthma.

Indeed, there isn't much control for many of these babies who simply choose to come a bit early. And while the majority of early term babies are born just fine, there is a growing concern over the higher-than-ever Cesarean section rate. The majority of scheduled c-sections are performed at 39 weeks or less, increasing the rate of early term infants.

Yet just like babies who choose to enter the world early, many c-sections need to be performed early for health concerns affecting mom or baby. Experts encourage doctors and expecting moms to rethink elective c-sections or early inductions, giving unborn babies as much time as possible in utero, provided the baby is thriving. Every week is critical to an infant's development, and at this point, important organs including the brain are still developing.

Image c/o Melimama

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