In an effort to improve newborn care, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is narrowing the definition of a full-term baby. It used to be any baby born between 37-42 weeks of gestation was “term.” Now, they are limiting that designation to babies born between 39-41 weeks. And it’s not going to matter in the slightest to any pregnant woman out there.
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ chair, Dr. Jeffrey Ecker:
We have increasingly recognized that newborn outcomes are not uniform between 37 and 42 weeks.
Babies delivered between 37 weeks and 39 weeks of pregnancy will now be considered “early term,” according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Babies born between 41 and 42 weeks of pregnancy will be thought of as “late term.” Finally, those born at 42 weeks or later will still be considered “postterm.”
Does this mean we can change the idea that pregnancy lasts nine months? Because nine months is roughly 36 weeks. That doesn’t even count as “early term” by the new definitions. It’s pre-early term. So let’s just start with 10 months and go from there. It’s the least they can do for us pregnant women since pregnancy feels like 100 years as it is. That’s a change that I could get behind. Nine months just doesn’t do the feeling justice.
Every pregnant woman can remember the day (or days) when they crack at how long pregnancy takes. With my first child it was 36 weeks. He had turned sunny-side up, my back was killing me, and I couldn’t put on my shoes or zipper my own coat in the dead of winter. I distinctly remember thinking, “I just cannot take another month of this!” And I was right. It would be another 5 and a half weeks until he was born.
By my second pregnancy I had caught on to the mind-game that is a due date. I lied to my doctor about the date of my last period. I lied to others about my expected due date. I’m sure I even lied to myself about all of it in an effort to forget about the one single date they circle on their calendar, the date that everything revolves around. The relatively arbitrary “due date” is really the date that everyone starts to call and text wondering if the baby is coming. It sets the ticking clock before doctors start talking about inducing you.
I wonder if the new definitions will change these tendencies by pregnant women to manipulate due dates. I might be afraid if I was too far off, I’d end up being considered “early term” and my baby would be given special care it didn’t need. Then again, I have a friend whose baby was born at 37 weeks, which would be considered early term under the new definition, yet he is advanced in almost every aspect of his development and he’s 18 months old now. It reminds me that, barring significant issues, babies just come whenever they are ready. There are no calendars in the womb.