Many pregnant women, antsy due to the aches and discomforts of late pregnancy, wish they would just go into labor when they hit the 37-week mark. Chances are, they aren’t sleeping well, they are going to the bathroom every time they sneeze, and they may have the discomforts of sciatic or back pain. It’s understandable; 40-weeks is a long time, and after all, 37-weeks is considered full term, when the baby is fully developed and able to live outside the womb. However, a new study indicates that there is a significant difference in brain development between a baby born at 38-weeks and those born at 41-weeks gestation.
The study indicated that 3rd graders born at 38-weeks gestation did not perform as well on reading and math standardized tests as their 41-week counterparts. According to Dr. Mark Sloan, “The brain grows rapidly between 38 and 41 weeks gestation: gray matter increases nearly 50%, and myelinated white matter triples as the brain increases in complexity. It’s not surprising that being born even two or three weeks early might negatively impact some babies.”
Those final weeks of pregnancy also further develop the eyes and ears. Babies born even 2 weeks early are at increased risk of vision and hearing problems later in life. Learning disabilities, behavioral issues, and breathing problems are also problems early babies could face.
So as ready as you may be for your pregnancy to be over, and as excited as you are to meet that sweet little baby, know that everything is just as it should be. Each day past that anticipated 37-week mark are precious and important. With each day, your baby’s chances of a successful, healthy life increases. And in the end, that’s what we all want; a healthy baby.