During any time of pregnancy, the health of a pregnant woman and her baby is essential. If the labor starts early in 36 weeks, it is crucial to understand all risks and benefits of delivery during this time. Late preterm is defined as delivery at 36 weeks which can happen either on its own or through induction. Induction of labor is performed for the following reasons, severe preeclampsia, placental problems, fetal growth restriction.
All You Need to Know about Baby Born at 36 Weeks
Is 36 Weeks Baby Premature?
According to ACOG :
- Gestational age below 28 weeks, the baby is extremely preterm
- Gestational age between 28-32 weeks, the baby is very preterm
- Gestational age between 32 and 37 weeks, the baby is moderate to late preterm
- Gestational age between 34 and 36 weeks, the baby is late preterm
- Gestational age between 37 and 38 weeks, the baby is an early term
- Gestational age of 39 weeks and more is full term.
Earlier, ACOG considered 37 weeks as a full-term pregnancy. But, many babies delivered at 37 weeks suffered from certain complications and thus they changed their guidelines.
Do Babies Born at 36 Weeks Need NICU?
Till 36 weeks of pregnancy, most of the babies have gained the potential to survive on their own outside the womb of the mother. These babies are less likely to suffer from breathing issues as lung surfactant is already developed. But still, they may require assistance with breathing for a few hours or days. The risk of infections and problems such as jaundice, hypoglycemia, and hypothermia is still high in these babies.
Babies born in the late preterm period are physiologically and developmentally immature if compared to full-time babies. These babies are at high risk of illness and death. As the pregnancy progresses week by week, the risk of illness and death decreases. The survival rates in these babies are fairly around 98 % to 99 %
Impact on Development
Late preterm babies are at higher risk for developmental issues as compared to the full-term babies. Following risk are high in babies born at 36 weeks :
- Mental retardation
- Cerebral palsy
- Behavioral and psychiatric problems
- Need for early intervention services
- Special education skills requirement
The late preterm babies are at lower risk of developmental outcomes when compared to early preterm babies. In preschool children, memory performing tasks are difficult for these late preterm babies.
Are the Lungs of Babies Developed at 36 Weeks?
Almost of babies at 36 weeks of pregnancy acquire lung maturation. But this cannot be assured as every baby develops at a different rate. If preterm labor is detected, then through amniocentesis doctor can determine the maturity of the lungs. In many cases, a steroid injection is given to hasten the maturation process of the lungs. But if still maturation fails, immature lungs are formed which are associated with certain complications.
Complications of Baby Born at 36 Weeks
Following complications are associated with babies born at 36 weeks :
Inability in Body Temperature Regulation
At 36 weeks of pregnancy, the body of the baby has an insufficient amount of fat which is burnt to maintain an optimal temperature for growth. His baby may suffer from hypothermia in worse conditions. Therefore, constant temperature regulation is necessary.
Since in some babies, lungs are not mature till this time, breathing problems are seen. Along with this onset of apnea may occur. Due to improper development of brain breathing can cease at any moment for a while.
Often premature babies develop jaundice due to immature development of the liver and its functions. Therefore, bilirubin excretion is not proper and it’s accumulation leads to jaundice in the baby. The commonest symptoms of jaundice are yellowing of eyes and skin.
The suckling as well as swallowing reflex of milk is properly seen in full-term babies. In the case of preterm babies, reflex may not occur properly and thus these babies go to sleep hungry. Latching to the breast is another issue. These babies require feeding through bottles.
Patent Ductus Arteriosus
Preterm babies suffer from many congenital heart malformations. One such malformation is Patent Ductus Arteriosus, where ductus arteriosus is not closed soon after the birth of the baby and these vessels allow the mixing of blood in the fetus which can lead problems in the baby after birth. Therefore, this vessel is closed by ligamentum arteriosum but in preterm babies, these vessels remain open.
Risk of infections
Premature babies are more prone to bacterial infections as compared to full-term babies because their bodies are not completely developed. Their immunity is weak and they cannot regulate their body temperature which makes it easy for the microorganisms to infect them easily.
Is it Safe to Deliver at 37 Weeks?
The last few weeks of pregnancy are crucial for the development of the baby. The vital organs such as the brain and lungs of the baby are still developing until 38 weeks. If a baby is born before 39 weeks, it is more likely that they may require intensive care. But earlier, a healthy baby delivered at 37 weeks was considered full term and can survive without any struggle.
Early Term v/s Full Term
Many babies born at 37 weeks undergo complications. Nowadays any pregnancy last for or more than 39 weeks is considered full-term whereas babies born in the 37th week or 38th week of gestation are considered early term.
Usually, delivery at 36 weeks is not considered. These babies if born on at this time are considered late preterm babies and they may have difficulty in initiating their life on their own. But with proper medical support, these can overcome their problems and can lead to a healthy life.