At 37 weeks, you might be pretty much over being pregnant, so hey, welcoming your baby three weeks before your due date might not be such a bad thing, right?
Once considered “term,” a baby born at 37 weeks is now classed as “early term” by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
So why did they make this change, and what does it mean if you give birth at 37 weeks?
Worry not, we’ve got the facts.
In this article 📝
- Are babies born at 37 weeks fully developed?
- Is it safe to deliver at 37 weeks?
- What happens if a baby is born at 37 weeks?
- Do babies born at 37 weeks need NICU?
- Will my baby have to stay in hospital if born at 37 weeks?
- What are the risks of a baby born at 37 weeks?
Are babies born at 37 weeks fully developed?
At 37 weeks, your baby is similar in length and weight to a full-term newborn baby.
The average 37-week-old baby weighs around 6.5 pounds and will measure around 19 inches head to toe.
So why the change from “term” to “early term?”
Well, up until relatively recently, C-sections and planned deliveries were commonplace – all the better to ensure everyone could be there to welcome baby.
But between miscalculated due dates and the understanding that 37 weeks could be considered full-term, more babies were spending time in the NICU.
And recent studies show that babies born at 37 weeks were four times more likely to have respiratory issues than those born between 39 to 41 weeks.
To improve newborn outcomes, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists changed the definitions to encourage longer pregnancies outside of health risks to the mother.
The good news is everything is where it should be, it just needs a little extra attention and time.
Is it safe to deliver at 37 weeks?
In some cases, it might be necessary to deliver your baby at 37 weeks due to an underlying maternal or fetal condition.
This will be done under closely monitored conditions at your hospital so that both your and your baby’s safety is assured.
If you go into labor spontaneously at 37 weeks, it doesn’t mean it’s not safe.
But it’s good for all mamas-to-be to know the signs of early labor so you can birth your baby as safely as possible.
You may be in early labor if you notice any unusual cramping or contractions that don’t go away, are getting closer together, or are more painful, you lose your mucus plug, or your water breaks.
What happens if a baby is born at 37 weeks?
A baby born at 37 weeks will be given the usual checks to monitor their condition – sometimes known as an Apgar test.
This is a quick method to check baby’s overall health by assessing their color, respiratory effort, heart rate, reflexes, and muscle tone.
Do babies born at 37 weeks need NICU?
Sometimes, babies born at 37 weeks will need to stay in NICU for a short while, but it’s quite unlikely.
The list of typical premature complications is minimal, so unless there is a medical condition or birth trauma, a baby will often be able to stay with mom until it’s time to go home.
Though the switch in classification in 2012 indicated that babies born at 37 weeks were having more initial issues than babies born at 38 weeks or later, the incidence of serious health risks is still very low.
Will my baby have to stay in hospital if born at 37 weeks?
Maybe, but maybe not!
This will vary on a case-by-case basis, just as it does for full-term babies.
Sometimes babies born at 37 weeks will face some initial difficulties, but they are often short-term and easily resolved.
If they are feeding, breathing, and keeping themselves warm with no assistance, you’ll be good to go.
If you give birth by C-section, it’s normal to have a short stay in the hospital while you recover from surgery and start the healing process.
This can be a great time to ask the medical team around you any questions you may have about your little one’s condition and seek advice around breastfeeding or pumping, if necessary.
What are the risks of a baby born at 37 weeks?
So we know that for every week of your third trimester, your baby continues to put on weight, their internal systems keep maturing, and their brain and lungs grow and develop every day until they’re born.
Being born three weeks before their due date technically means they’re a little premature, but the risks are not the same.
The most common conditions are jaundice, low blood sugar, and difficulty breathing, but these often show within the first few hours.
Because they have less body fat, your baby may also have difficulty regulating their body temperature, but again, that will come in time.
As for long-term health risks, the outcome is generally positive.
For example, in comparison to babies born at 36 weeks and younger (preemies), children born at 37 weeks show similar higher cognitive scores as those born at full-term.
It’s easy to get swept up in the worries with an early arrival.
But it’s also worth remembering that at 37 weeks pregnant, anything can happen, and doctors are prepared and equipped to care for both of you.
Yes, it’s important for baby to reach full term, but if there’s nothing stopping them from meeting you three weeks sooner, the support is there to carry them through.
You’re both doing great mama and there’s a whole Peanut community rooting for you.