Why is this important?
Planned early birth is an important intervention in maternity care, but the timing of birth should be carefully considered to optimise the outcome for mother and child. Birth before 39 weeks’ gestation is associated with higher risks of short-term adverse effects on the baby, such as respiratory distress, hypoglycaemia and jaundice, and an increased likelihood of admission to a neonatal intensive care unit. There is also emerging evidence of potential long-term adverse developmental effects, such as poorer educational outcomes in childhood. Until recently, neonatal outcomes were generally thought to be the same whether planned birth occurred at 37, 38 or 39 weeks’ gestation – but this is not the case. Pregnant women may not be aware that waiting until 39 weeks is best for their baby if there are no medical reasons for earlier birth.