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Importance of Carrying Infants to 40 Weeks

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I remember, when I was pregnant, thinking that once I got to 37 weeks all was safe.  And when one of our kids was born at 38 weeks, and the other at 36 weeks, I really didn’t think much of it at all.  And fortunately, everything was fine.

But new research is showing the risks to babies born in the 37th or even 38th week of pregnancy.  They have a higher risk of dying before their first birthday than babies who are carried full term.  From the New York Times:

Pregnancies lasting at least 37 weeks are regarded as safely full-term, but new research finds that babies born in the 37th or 38th week of pregnancy have a higher risk of dying before their first birthdays than those born after 39 weeks of gestation…

The new analysis, published online on May 23 in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, is among the first to examine differences between so-called early term births and later births. In 2006, infants born at 37 weeks were twice as likely to die in the first year of life, with 3.9 deaths per 1,000 births, as those born at 40 weeks, with 1.9 deaths per 1,000 births.

The study was done by researchers at the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration and the March of Dimes.  The group looked at data from 1995 to 2006.  During that time, the number of infants born before 39 weeks of gestation increased to almost one in three births, up from more than one in five.



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