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 your pregnancy is healthy and you're planning to schedule your baby's birth, it's best to stay pregnant for at least 39 weeks.
Why your baby needs 39 weeks
When you wait until 39 weeks to have your baby:
- important organs such as the brain, lungs and liver get all the time they need to develop
- your baby is less likely to have vision and hearing problems after birth
- your baby has time to gain more weight in the womb, which will help him or her stay warm after birth
- your baby can suck and swallow and stay awake long enough to eat after birth
In addition, scheduling an early birth for nonmedical reasons may lead to the following:
- Your baby may be born too early. Sometimes it's hard to know just when you got pregnant. If you schedule to induce labor or have a cesarean section (C-section) and your date is off by a week or two, your baby may be born too early.
- Inducing labor may not work. The medicine your doctor or nurse midwife gives you may not start your labor. When this happens, you may need to have a C-section.
- A C-section can cause problems for your baby. Babies born by C-section may have more breathing and other medical problems.
- C-sections can cause problems in future pregnancies. Once you have a C-section, you may be more likely to have a C-section in future pregnancies. The more you have, the more problems you and your baby may have, including problems with the placenta.
Questions to ask your provider
If your doctor or nurse midwife recommends inducing labor, ask the following questions:
- Why do you need to induce my labor?
- How will you induce my labor?
- Will inducing labor increase the chance that I'll need to have a C-section?
If your provider recommends a C-section, ask the following questions:
- Why do I need to have a C-section?
- What problems can a C-section cause for me and my baby?
- Will I need to have a C-section in future pregnancies?
If your provider recommends delivery before 39 weeks, be sure to ask if you can wait to have your baby until you're closer to 39 weeks.
The Christ Hospital Birthing Center has been caring for moms and babies for more than 120 years. To learn more about our maternity services, visit TheChristHospital.com/womens-health. Find an OB/GYN near you.