Medical professionals are always concerned about preterm births, meaning before Week 37, due to complications of prematurity that include, among other things, respiratory and systemic morbidity. A full-term birth is a delivery after Week 37 (and through Week 42). A study conducted at Soroka Medical Center and Ben-Gurion University that was published in the prestigious American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, found that normal birth in Week 37-39 may lead to morbidity as in premature birth.
The team of researchers from Soroka Hospital and Ben-Gurion University, which included Dr. Dorit Paz, Prof. Eyal Sheiner and Dr. Asnat Walfisch from the Obstetrics and Gynecology Division, together with Dr. Daniella Landau of the Maternity Department and Dr. Tamar Weinstock with Ruslan Sergienko of the Department of Epidemiology at Ben-Gurion University, examined the relation between week of delivery within the “full-term” range, and hospitalizations of children up to the age of 18 with various metabolic and endocrine diagnoses, including juvenile diabetes, obesity, hyperlipidemia, hyperthyroidism, and more.
The study found that the rate of hospitalizations of the children in the early-term group, which was related to endocrine and metabolic morbidity, was approximately 20% higher than among the children born after Week 39, and this was even more salient among children over the age of five.
The researchers concluded that deliveries occurring at early term, between Week 37-39, are strongly associated with preterm complications such as diabetes and obesity. Deliveries between these weeks must, therefore, be viewed as a risk factor, and follow-up of these children is important, paying appropriate attention to the need to identify typical complications early.
Dr. Asnat Walfisch, Director of Maternity E and Head of High-Risk Pregnancy in Maternity B at Soroka, said, “It is well-known that preterm birth is a risk factor for morbidity, including obesity and juvenile diabetes and at a later age due to the lack of full maturity of the hormonal axis upon delivery, which leads to an increase in morbidity related to insulin and other hormones. However, it is not yet clear whether full-term birth, meaning after Week 37 is a risk factor, which is why we chose to examine the issue.
The best time for birth is between Week 39-41, as there is the least risk of morbidity, both in the long and short term. This indicates that it is better not to go to the doctor before your due date to tell him/her that you are feeling heavy and ask to be induced. Clearly, if there is a medical indication for early-term birth, such as pre-eclampsia or bleeding, we will need to induce.”