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Babies born too early may have more health problems at birth and later in life than babies born full term. Being pregnant 39 weeks gives your baby's body all the time it needs to grow.
There are lots of important things happening to your baby in the last few weeks of pregnancy. For example, your baby's brain and lungs are still growing. Thirty-nine weeks gives your baby all the time he needs to grow before he's born.
You might not have a choice about when to have your baby. If there are problems with your pregnancy or your baby's health, you may need to have your baby earlier. But if you have a choice and you're planning to schedule your baby's birth, wait until at least 39 weeks.
Here's why your baby needs 39 weeks:
Babies need 39 weeks in the womb to develop completely and gain weight. Among the risks for babies born too small are hypothermia, when core body temperature is too low for normal function and metabolism. Such babies may require time in a radiant warmer, in a neonatal intensive care unit.
At 34 weeks, the volume of the cerebral cortex -- which controls higher-order functions such as cognition, perception, reason and motor control -- is 53% of its volume at 39 to 40 weeks.
Babies born before 39 weeks are more likely to have vision and hearing problems after birth.
Babies born before 39 weeks often can't learn to suck and swallow well, and they may not be able to stay awake long enough to eat.
Lungs may not be fully developed until 36 to 38 weeks. Even when lungs are fully developed, deliveries between 36 weeks and 38 weeks, 6 days, may still be associated with significantly increased respiratory problems.
Important growth in the liver occurs during the last weeks of pregnancy.
Source: March of Dimes