Carrying Your Baby to Full Term

Letting labor start on its own is one of the best ways to ensure the health of your baby and promote your own recovery. You might think that scheduling a cesarean delivery a few weeks ahead of the full term will be easier on you and your child, but that’s not always the case.

Here's why: The last month or so of pregnancy is when your baby experiences critical growth and development.

Why Wait 39 Weeks?

Here are some of the ways in which a baby develops during the last few weeks of pregnancy:

  • The brain grows by one-third.
  • The baby gains needed weight.
  • Important lung and liver development takes place.
  • Ear and eye development takes place, so babies born at 39 weeks or later are less likely to develop hearing and vision problems.

When to Deliver Before 39 Weeks

Some women naturally go into labor early, and sometimes an early delivery—either induced or by cesarean—must be done for medical reasons, such as:

  • Infection
  • Mother's high blood pressure
  • Heavy vaginal bleeding
  • Problems with the placenta

Induced Labor vs. Natural Labor

There are always risks to childbirth, but those risks increase slightly when labor is induced before 39 weeks. If you're thinking of scheduling an elective induction or cesarean delivery ahead of the 39-week mark, consider these 3 important reasons to wait for full-term labor, if you’re healthy enough:

Inducing Labor May Not Work

Sometimes the medication given to induce labor doesn't work properly. A failed induction increases your risk of infection and bleeding. If the induction fails, you may need a cesarean section.

A Cesarean Is Major Surgery

You'll most likely need more time to recover from a cesarean birth than you would from a vaginal birth. There's also an increased risk of complications for mom and baby, such as infection or bleeding.

A Cesarean Affects Future Pregnancies

With each cesarean, there's a greater risk for complications and often a longer recovery period.

Planning a Cesarean Birth

If you do decide on a cesarean birth (called "elective" cesarean), it should be scheduled after your 39th week of pregnancy. If you go into labor before your scheduled surgery date, go to the hospital right away.

Childbirth Classes

The more informed you are about what's to come, the more prepared you'll be throughout your pregnancy. That's why Cedars-Sinai offers classes on pregnancy, childbirth, finance care and more. Registration is open to all expectant parents, whether or not you're having a baby with us.