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Ages & Stages

Elective Deliveries Before 39 Weeks: Is It Worth It?

measuring pregnant belly measuring pregnant belly

Allowing baby to remain in the womb until at least 39 weeks, if possible, is safest for both baby and mother.

Let baby set the delivery date.

  • You can avoid or reduce many health risks for the mother and the baby by waiting until 39 weeks of pregnancy to deliver, if there is no medical reason to deliver earlier.

  • Research shows that the fetus goes through a significant amount of lung, liver, and brain development between 37 weeks and 39 weeks of pregnancy.

  • Your due date could be off by up to 2 weeks, which means if you have your baby before 39 weeks you could be having it early.

  • Research shows that delaying delivery until 39 weeks of pregnancy or later—if there is no medical reason to deliver earlier—is not associated with increased rates of stillbirths.


Why should I wait until at least 39 weeks of pregnancy to deliver?

  • Babies born at or after 39 weeks of pregnancy face fewer health problems.

  • Babies' brains, lungs, and liver continue important development until 39 weeks.

What are the risks to my baby and to me if I deliver without a medical reason before 39 weeks of pregnancy?

Risks to the baby: 

  • May need to stay in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU)

  • Birth complications, including breathing problems and cerebral palsy

  • Developmental disabilities, such as attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

  • A 63% greater chance of death within the first year of life compared to babies born between 39 weeks and 41 weeks

Risks to the mother: 

  • Postpartum depression

  • Stronger and more frequent contractions

  • Need for a cesarean delivery and its outcomes, including risk of infection, longer recovery time, and the possible need for cesarean delivery in future pregnancies

What questions should I ask my health care provider?

  • Are there any medical reasons that I might need induced labor before 39 weeks?

  • What are the potential complications for my baby of elective induction?

  • What are the potential complications for my own health?

  • How do you tell when my body is ready for labor?

Additional Information & Resources:

Last Updated
National Child & Maternal Health Education Program - Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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