Women choosing elective cesarean section births would do well to wait the whole nine months, a new study shows.
Babies delivered by cesarean section a week or two before the recommended 39 weeks of pregnancy face a heightened risk of respiratory problems and other complications, researchers report in the Jan. 8 New England Journal of Medicine. Being born late isn’t good either, the study finds.
Scientists consider normal human gestation to be 39 to 40 weeks, which is about nine months. Doctors have adopted some leeway in this calculation, considering a baby to be “full term” if delivered at 37 weeks or later.
But past research had raised questions about early deliveries, and practice guidelines urge women to hang on until 39 or 40 weeks before delivering. Mainly, this extra time allows for full development of the fetus’ lungs.