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Many Women Miscalculate Time to Full-Term Birth
Date:11/20/2009

1 in 4 thinks it's as short as 34 weeks, potentially adding to preemie delivery rate, experts say

FRIDAY, Nov. 20 (HealthDay News) -- Recent reports show that the rate of preterm deliveries continues to climb in the United States. Now, a new study suggests one reason why: Many women are confused about what constitutes a full-term birth in the first place.

About one-quarter of new mothers surveyed in the study considered a baby born at 34 to 36 weeks of gestation to be full term, while slightly more than half of women considered 37 to 38 weeks full term.

Though technically speaking, preterm births are babies born prior to 37 weeks, 39 to 40 weeks is optimal, according to the researchers.

Many women interviewed were also unaware that babies born even a little bit premature are at a higher risk of serious health problems compared to babies born at term, the new survey shows.

Misconceptions about what constitutes full gestation and how soon it's safe to schedule an elective induction or cesarean delivery are contributing to increasing numbers of premature births in the United States, said lead study author Dr. Robert L. Goldenberg, professor of obstetrics and director of research at Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia.

"Clearly, the preterm birth rate is going up, as are early deliveries that are at term but are 37 and 38 weeks," Goldenberg said. "The data is becoming more and more clear that the outcomes of births at those earlier gestational ages are not as good as babies that are born at 39 or 40 weeks."

The study, which included 650 first-time mothers ages 21 to 45 from around the nation who had health insurance, is in the December issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology.

When asked, "What is the earliest point in pregnancy that it is safe to deliver the baby, should there not be other medical complications requiring early delivery?", more than half
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