Elective deliveries before 39 completed weeks of gestation can pose both short-term and long-term health risks for the newborn. See ACOG's resources and links to other national and provider efforts to help reduce unnecessary deliveries prior to 39 completed weeks.
New Gestational Age Designations: Full Term Starts at 39 Weeks
In November 2013, ACOG and SMFM recommended replacing the use of “term,” which previously indicated gestation between 37 weeks and 42 weeks, with the following gestational age designations:
• Early term: 37 weeks through 38 weeks and 6 days
• Full term: 39 weeks through 40 weeks and 6 days
• Late term: 41 weeks through 41 weeks and 6 days
• Postterm: 42 weeks and beyond
This change reflects a growing body of research findings, some of which has been led by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, showing that key developmental processes occur between 37 weeks and 39 weeks. Babies born at or after 39 weeks have the best chance at healthy outcomes compared to those born before 39 weeks.
Tell your patients! Unless there’s a health risk to the mother or baby, it’s best to wait to deliver until reaching full term at 39 weeks. Free patient education resources and information are available here.
Initiative to Reduce Elective Deliveries Before 39 Weeks of Pregnancy
The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development has launched its first national education campaign, the National Child and Maternal Health Education Program (NCMHEP). The website includes content for health care providers and for moms-to-be, as well as background about the initiative and materials that can be shared on social media.
CME/CE Course on “The Redefinition of Term Pregnancy” Available on Medscape (log-in required)
Recent Declines in Induction of Labor by Gestational Age
The NIH has released a report that shows after nearly after nearly 20 years of consecutive increases, induction of labor for singleton births reached a high of 23.8% in 2010, then declined in 2011 (23.7%) and 2012 (23.3%).
Decline in Early Elective Deliveries Across the United States
There has been a decline in babies delivered before 39 weeks. Figures from 2010 indicate that 17% of babies in the United States were delivered before 39 weeks. Through advocacy from ACOG and other organizations, it was reported that in 2013 that percentage had plummeted to 4.6%