If it’s not Christmas, it’s New Years, Superbowl Sunday or Valentine’s Day. All days people mark down their calendars. Nowadays, moms are also penciling in their baby’s delivery date.

“People have sort of pushed the envelope, both providers and patients. Wanting to get delivered early, wanting to get delivered at certain time,” says Dr. Mary Yankaskas, an obstetrician/gynecologist on the medical staff of Lee Memorial Health System.

Studies show as many as 36% of elective deliveries now occur before 39 weeks, when fetal development is complete. The choice can do more harm than good.

“Those babies when delivered electively between thirty-seven and thirty-nine weeks were having much greater incidents of being transferred to the neonatal intensive care unit. They were having feeding problems, breathing problems, increase risk of infection and even increase risk of death,” says Dr. Yankaskas.

It’s a common misconception that during the tail end of pregnancy, babies are purely gaining weight. Turns out the final few weeks can be crucial to the baby’s brain.

“A baby’s brain, at about thirty-five to thirty-six weeks, is only two thirds the size it is at forty weeks. That’s a huge difference in change and connections that make a difference in terms of how they feed and how they breathe,” says Dr. Yankaskas.

There are medical reasons that require a pre-term birth.

“If the mom has a problem like high blood pressure or uncontrolled diabetes, or if the baby is having issues such as with growth or some other abnormality then there are certainly a number of reasons for early delivery,” says Dr. Mary Yankaskas.

Given the risk of complications, experts hope that expectant moms won’t be counting on an early delivery.

“I think when you appeal to a mom they pretty much understand that,” says Dr. Yankaskas.

There’s no better reason to celebrate, than the birth of a healthy baby.

View More Health Matters video segments at leememorial.org/healthmatters/

Lee Memorial Health System in Fort Myers, FL is the largest network of medical care facilities in Southwest Florida and is highly respected for its expertise, innovation and quality of care. For nearly a century, we've been providing our community with everything from primary care treatment to highly specialized care services and robotic assisted surgeries.

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