Monday, February 11, 2013

37 Weeks - Full term?

Each week I read what is happening to the baby (and to me) this week and sometimes I watch a video as well.  This is my 37th week of pregnancy.  The video starts with "Congratulations, Mom, your baby is now full term!"  The website starts with "At the end of this week, your baby will be considered term, way to go!"

Wait a minute.... are you sure?  I thought pregnancy was supposed to be an average of 40 weeks... with a 2 week window on either side. Now, I'm not a math teacher, but that means 38-42 weeks with outliers above and below (yes, I threw out some stats terms!)

So why are we calling 37 week pregnancies "term" and 41 week pregnancies "post term?"  I did a little googling and found some research that asks the same thing.

Listen up Mommy-to-be!  

As with so many other issues surrounding pregnancy, childbirth and infant care and nutrition, we, as a nation, are confused!  What does it mean when only 25% of women in a recent survey chose the "39-40 week" option as the optimal one for delivery? (The other respondents chose times earlier than 39 weeks.)  I guess it means that we are overly eager to get these babies out and not at all ready to continue to "sacrifice" ourselves for the health of our children. And that our medical professionals are less likely to stick to their guns and more likely to give in to the poor patients who have finally made it to 40 weeks and are just done being pregnant.  (Try being pregnant for nearly 42 or 43 weeks and see how you feel).  One website I read quoted a doctor who said "No mother enjoys the last 4 weeks of her pregnancy."  Now, really, has he spoken to every woman?  Maybe some of us like being pregnant and know we will miss it when it's over.  You can read a blog post, with several other interesting links here.

I have my own theory about why the last 4 weeks of pregnancy are tough.  If you are like me and you rather enjoy being pregnant, you would probably choose to stay that way forever rather than go through that hard work called labor and push a 9lb baby out.  God is smart.  Make women uncomfortable for the last few weeks and they will start to think "Ok, I will do anything to get this kid out.  That's right, anything!"

So, bottom line, "term" pregnancy is actually one that lasts between 39 and 41 weeks.  Yep, you read that correctly.  It is perfectly healthy to carry that baby to 41 weeks.  There is no need to induce at 40 weeks and 1 day.  You aren't "late" or "overdue" at all. And babies don't stop growing or maturing when they hit that magic 37, 38, 39 or 40 week mark.  In fact, the longer you carry your baby, the better start they get in life.  Their brains, lungs, digestive and immune systems all continue to mature en utero.

Still think I'm crazy for scheduling my last day of work for 8 days after my "due date?"  I know something that apparently other women in our modern world full of information have yet to figure out, accept, or hear about.  Babies come when they come.  Babies in my family tend to come after 40 weeks. Yes, I'm getting close to the end.  I know this and I feel great, aside from a small backache, heartburn and trouble sleeping.  (Oh yeah, and that adorable little head that is forever pressing on my bladder.)  If I am one of the "lucky ones" who gets to have her baby prior to 40 weeks, I'll use those sick days that I stored up and I will be just fine.  But, if I carry this baby to 41 weeks, I'm covered.  I can keep working and not go stir crazy at home with my active 2 year old who wants to run and tackle all day. 

Although experienced moms know it is far from the last, this is my first chance to "sacrifice" for my child.  I won't really be "term" for 2 more weeks and I won't be "overdue" for another 2 weeks after that. I want this baby, need this baby, to stay put for a little longer to give her the best chance of survival in the tough world she's getting ready to enter.

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