One of the most important things that happens during pregnancy is the development of the lungs in a baby. Many of the other parts of a baby are functioning quite early on during fetal development , but for the lungs, every day of development is important. Even one day can make a difference for lung development. For babies who are at risk of being born prematurely, for example, doctors focus primarily on making sure that the lungs are as developed as possible before the baby is born, so the baby has the best chance of survival.
Babies born before week 37 of pregnancy are considered preterm. Preterm babies face a higher risk for one or more complications after delivery. However, not all babies develop at the same rate, so there can be exceptions. Immature lungs can be dangerous for your baby.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that fetal pulmonary maturity be documented for scheduled deliveries occurring prior to 39 weeks of gestation in order to prevent neonatal respiratory problems. To compare neonatal outcomes, the team looked at mothers who had positive fetal lung maturity tests at between 36 to 38 completed weeks. They compared the neonatal outcomes from these scheduled deliveries prior to 39 weeks with known fetal lung maturity to the outcomes from scheduled deliveries at 39 weeks to 41 completed weeks. The study was a retrospective cohort study from a single institution over a 12 year period. Neonatal outcomes of women who were delivered following documented fetal pulmonary maturity at 36, 37, and 38 weeks were compared to women undergoing a scheduled delivery at 39, 40, and 41 weeks.
These will stay soft and separated until after the birth to make the journey through the birth canal easier — the bones can move gently and slide over each other so that the head can be born safely while still protecting the brain. Your baby is curled up in the uterus now, with legs bent up towards the chest. They will also be able to suckle for feeds now, and the digestive system is fully prepared to deal with breast milk.