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Full-Term Pregnancy

Definition - What does Full-Term Pregnancy mean?

A full-term pregnancy, as defined by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), is a pregnancy that lasts between 39 weeks, 0 days to 40 weeks, 6 days. A full-term baby has matured enough to be delivered safely. A full-term pregnancy may result in a live birth (baby born alive) or stillbirth (baby born not alive after 20 weeks).

FertilitySmarts explains Full-Term Pregnancy

Until now, the terminologies, "term or full-term pregnancy" were used synonymously and defined as the pregnancies that took place anywhere between 37 to 42 weeks. However, the ACOG and other medical institutions noticed that delivering before 39 weeks lead to greater complications. Hence, the definition of “full term” was refined from 37 to 39 weeks.

A “term pregnancy” is now a blanket term including full-term and additional new versions and designations as follows:

  • early term: from 37 weeks and 0 days of pregnancy through 38 weeks and 6 days of pregnancy)
  • full-term (as mentioned above)
  • late-term (between 41 weeks, 0 days and 41 weeks, 6 days of pregnancy), and
  • post-term (from 42 weeks and 0 days of pregnancy and beyond)

Research reveals that the period of 39 to 40 weeks is the best for babies to be delivered as it gives them more time to grow. In particular, various organs experience a vital period of growth during the 37 through 39 weeks of pregnancy. Provided there are no complications in pregnancy, it’s best to wait until at least full-term, i.e., 39 weeks of pregnancy to allow the birth of a fully developed and healthy baby.

In addition, especially in women with irregular periods, the due date may be off by as much as two weeks, even when checked with an ultrasound. In such cases, allowing more time for natural labor can cut down many risks that come along with preterm birth.

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