Pregnancy typically lasts about 40-weeks. Babies born before the 37th week are considered premature. Even though babies born after the 37th week are considered full term, they are still growing, putting on weight, and completing the development of their lungs and brain. Babies born before 37 weeks can have serious lifelong mental and physical challenges, but even babies born at 37 and 38 weeks might not quite be ready to face life outside the womb.
That is why, after a strong campaign by the March of Dimes, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) now recommends that “elective deliveries not be performed before 39 weeks gestation to minimize prematurity-related neonatal complications.” Medically-inducing labor before 39 weeks is now restricted in most cases to pregnancies with complications that can threaten the health of the mother or baby.
A group of Utah hospitals took this seriously: a study found that physicians were able to reduce the number of babies born before 39 weeks from 28% of all elective deliveries in 1999 to less than 1.2% of all elective deliveries in 2011.